Lost in the controversy surrounding all of the Chris Paul and Dwight Howard trade rumors was the fact that the Lakers were actually practicing and preparing for the 2011-12 season. Mike Brown is entering his first year as the head coach of the Lakers after five seasons as the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and has undoubtedly dived head first into the year-around soap opera that is the Los Angeles Lakers.
Brown has attempted to keep a level head as he tries to prepare his team for the start of the season on Christmas Day, while also having to navigate through constant speculation surrounding who may and may not be on his roster when that day arrives:
The thing about the NBA, any sport really, and life in general is you have to anticipate that there are going to be changes because nothing is forever and ever. As a coach that’s part of the reason why I get paid, its part of my job description is to be able to make adjustments if need be, and right now we haven’t had to so we’ll just take it one day and one practice at a time.”
There definitely have been changes. Lamar Odom has been traded to the Dallas Mavericks for a first round pick and a trade exception. Kobe Bryant was very opinionated with his displeasure of the move. Brown was asked if all of the trade speculation has been a distraction for the team:
I don’t think it has. You’d have to ask the players if its been a distraction for them. If it has, then they’ve done a nice job of hiding it because when we’re on this court these guys get after it and that’s all I can say. I don’t even think about it when I’m on the court and I’m sure they don’t either, at least I cant tell if they don’t.”
Speaking of practice, Brown took a break from all of the trade speculation and did actually talk basketball. With a new offensive and defensive system in place it can be hard for players (particularly veteran players) to get rid of old habits that become second nature when you play in one system for a prolonged period of time. However, Brown says he’s seen very little of that thus far:
We thought we’d see some old habits but our guys have done a tremendous job of picking up on the concepts right away. One of the things that we want to try to change is on pick and roll situations we want to jump out and attack the ball, if we can do it we’re going to try to do it early and see where it goes. Literally we’ve only seen them push the ball towards the baseline once or twice at the most…they’ve been doing that for years so to make that adjustment that quickly is very impressive.”
The Lakers will open the season having to play 3 games in 3 nights starting with a Christmas Day match-up against the Bulls. Bryant and Fisher are the only players on the Lakers roster that have previous experience in playing 3 consecutive nights as they are the only players on the current Lakers roster who were actively playing in the NBA during the previous lockout in 1998-99 that resulted in a 50-game regular season. Brown says that while many of today’s players don’t have experience playing under these circumstances, players of the past had to endure 3 games in 3 nights while traveling in far less lavish fashion:
I look at it this way, some of these old school guys like Mitch Kupchak, coach (Bill) Bertka, they were here back in the day when they had to fly commercial, pack their own bags and play back to back to back to back so if they could do it we better be able to do it.
Fortunately for the Lakers, the 3 game swing to open the season will be their only one of the year, something that is music to the ears of a team that has six key contributors who are over the age of 30.