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LOS ANGELES -- Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown knows he is hardly returning as a conquering hero when he faces the Lakers in Los Angeles for the first time since being fired last season.
"I really want to beat the Lakers," Brown said following the Cavaliers' shootaround at UCLA on Tuesday in preparation for their game against the Lakers later that night. "But I also really wanted to beat Sacramento. And that really didn't turn out good. So, hopefully we'll be able to get a win tonight."
While Brown landed on his feet after being hired back by the Cavs -- the team he coached prior to the Lakers -- Cleveland (13-24) has lost nine of its last 12 games, including a 44-point drubbing by the Kings on Sunday.
|Though the season has not gotten off to the start he had hoped for, Cleveland coach Mike Brown says he's "happy being a Cavalier."|
Brown was let go just five games into the second season of a four-year, $18 million deal after going 42-29 (.592) as coach of the Lakers. In spite of that, Brown said the return to L.A. doesn't stir up any extra emotions.
"I appreciate the opportunity," Brown said. "I enjoyed it here. But in terms of me still wanting to be here, I'm happy being a Cavalier. I want to be a Cavalier and I'm looking forward to growing with these young guys and this organization hopefully for many years."
Brown said the Lakers' struggles since he was let go have not been on his radar, even when he was still living in Orange County, Calif., for much of last season.
"They decided it was time to move on and I respected that, so I moved on from it," Brown said. "I didn't pay much attention to them at all. Obviously being in L.A., you're going to hear about them or you're going to see them in one way, shape or form, but I just spent time with my family. I was around Mater Dei [High] a lot, around my wife a lot and that was about it."
Brown said he has started to feel some pressure on the job in Cleveland with the Cavs two games out of a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference. However, Brown thinks back to a time when a San Antonio TV reporter told him that he thought Gregg Popovich should be fired when the Spurs coach was in between winning his third and fourth titles with the silver and black as evidence that there always will be critics in the coaching business.
"When that was said to me at that time, I vowed to myself," Brown said. "I said, 'I don't care what another person says about me, because if they can say that about a man that already has three or four championships and has changed the culture of an organization like [Popovich] had in San Antonio, if there's negativity about him from the media and fans, I'm not going to fight them.' There's no way I'm going to even touch it. I'm more than happy when people voice their opinion about me, whether it's positively or negatively."
With that mindset, it was not surprising when Brown refrained from offering much of an opinion of what went wrong in coaching former Lakers center Andrew Bynum this season, a relationship that ended with Bynum being suspended by the team, traded along with draft picks to Chicago for Luol Deng and summarily waived by the Bulls for cap relief.
"That's a great question for him," Brown said. "He's coming off sitting out over a year and he worked his tail off to get back and sometimes that takes a lot out of you, so now that's where you got to make the decision of how much more do you want to go through it. So that's something that he has to decide going forward."
Pau Gasol, nearly traded to Cleveland for Bynum before Chicago closed the deal, reflected on what it would have been like to be playing for the Cavs against the Lakers on Tuesday, instead of the other way around.
"It would have been different," Gasol said after the Lakers' shootaround Tuesday. "It would have been weird. It would have been a process, just like if it would have happened with any other team and then so quickly come back to the home that has been your home for so long and now it's not your home anymore, kind of thing. It would have been weird. But it's something that didn't happen. It's something that might happen, but still hasn't."
Gasol sat out the last two days with a moderate strain of the flexor tendon of the big toe on his left foot, but was able to participate in running drills Tuesday morning. The Lakers big man is still considered a game-time decision, but Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said, "I think [Gasol] will go, so I'm not worried about it" when asked about any potential lineup changes in Gasol's absence.
Similarly, Brown did not seem worried about accidentally going into the Lakers home locker room instead of the visitors locker room at Staples Center on Tuesday.
"I won't do that," Brown said with a laugh. "I wasn't here long enough."
ESPNLA 710 radio reporter Beto Duran contributed to this report.