Lakers' Mike Brown misses game

Updated: April 14, 2012, 3:03 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown left Staples Center shortly before tipoff of the team's 103-97 win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday because of personal reasons.

Assistant coach John Kuester assumed head-coaching duties in Brown's absence.

"Being a family, one of the things about our team is I see this growth and maturity as a group," Kuester said after the game. "They've worked extremely hard, they care about one another and it's also those type of feelings are pouring out on the floor. You can tell that those guys went out tonight and wanted to represent Mike Brown as best they possibly can, and that's what they did."

Lakers forward Matt Barnes, who chipped in a season-high 24 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, also gave credit to Kuester.

"We're still a collective unit, and Q [Kuester] stepped up and did a great job," Barnes said. "Our team talked a lot, communicated a lot and worked through it."

The Lakers' players said they didn't realize Kuester was filling in for Brown until they had already left the locker room and taken the court before the game.

"It happened so fast, so we really couldn't even focus on it because we had a game to play," Metta World Peace said.

Players said they had little information about what caused Brown's absence, although Barnes called it "something personal with the family."

"It really stinks when you're not able to be part of the game and the team loses, so hopefully he's happy with that and we wish him the best with whatever is going on because we don't know," said Andrew Bynum, who scored a game-high 30 points.

It was not the first time this season Brown missed a game. Brown was suspended in February for bumping into referee Zach Zarba in an eventual 96-87 loss to the Utah Jazz. Kuester took Brown's place during the one-game suspension, a 95-90 loss by the Lakers to the Philadelphia 76ers.

"It's a little different," Lakers co-captain Pau Gasol said about Brown's absence. "I think Mike usually gets really involved in the game as far as what we run out there and he's got a lot of energy on the sideline. I don't know exactly what happened but I hope everything is well with him and his family. Obviously, it's a little bit of a different look but the assistant coaches stepped up and played the way we needed to play to win the game."

Brown is expected to be back on the sidelines coaching Sunday's game against the Dallas Mavericks, according to a team source.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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