Not even two minutes into the 3rd quarter of last night’s game against the Golden State Warriors, with 16 seconds left on the shot clock and a 6-point lead, Los Angeles Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum walked up the court and shot a 3-pointer from the top of the key. If you’re into this sort of thing, the video is available to watch here.
I wouldn’t say he missed terribly. The shot had a nice touch, but fell right of center. The Warriors rebounded, but couldn’t even get the ball past half court before Lakers’ head coach Mike Brown ventured down to the end of his bench to substitute Josh McRoberts for the still 24-year old Bynum. Andrew would not see action the rest of the quarter, and only a scant few minutes in the fourth, as LA struggled to maintain it’s lead over the undersized Warriors team.
Spanning his 7-year NBA career, Andrew Bynum has taken 7 threes, making one (two nights ago, in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies).
It is not against the rules for a center to take a 3-point shot. Off the top of my head, Mehmet Okur takes them, Andrea Bargnani takes them, Spencer Hawes takes them. Manute Bol took them. Pau Gasol of the Lakers, who plays the center position each and every game for the same Los Angeles Lakers, has taken 19 of them this season alone. So why would first-year coach Mike Brown punish Bynum after launching his own?
Because he missed? If that shot had gone in, would Brown have pulled him?
I’m certainly not lobbying for Bynum to start taking more shots from deep. I clearly see the error in him launching basketballs from 24 feet away. If I had my druthers, Bynum wouldn’t move from directly underneath the rim on both ends, he would never put his arms down, and he would have his entire skeleton fortified with the indestructible metal alloy, adamantium.
Andrew Bynum shouldn’t take 3-point shots because he is simply not effective at making them. However, by the numbers, a lot of Lakers, in a lot of different positions, are not effective either.
The Lakers 3PT% during the 2012 NBA season:
Andrew Bynum: 25% (1-4)
Pau Gasol: 26% (5-19)
Metta World Peace: 26% (33-125)
Kobe Bryant: 28% (73-254)
If Mike Brown wants to punish someone for taking and missing a bad 3-point shot, he can stand in the middle of a huddle, put on a blind fold, point his finger, spin himself in a circle, and bench the player he stops on. There are only two teams worse at making 3’s in the NBA, and one of them is the Charlotte Bobcats, which is, as we all know, a franchise that should be put on a rocket ship and blasted into the sun.
When asked about the very public censure (the Lakers played on NBATV’s Fan Night), Brown said,
“That’s something that I felt could have taken us out of rhythm, and so that’s why I took him out of the game.”
Ohhhhh! I get it. It’s not that Bynum took the shot, it’s that it was taken outside the flow of the offense? Mike Brown, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Kobe Bean Bryant…
I’m not defending Bynum or his errant shot (Kevin Ding did that far more beautifully than I ever could). My issue is with Mike Brown. Brown needs to be consistent with his actions, his coaching. If you’re going to punish someone for hurting the offense, you better punish everyone who does the same. Different sets of rules for different players will breed contempt. Pau Gasol, like Bynum, is a seven footer who should be operating predominantly from the post, yet Gasol’s taken multiple ill-advised three point attempts with impunity. Pau spoke to the press about Bynum,
“That’s not his game. Hopefully it’s just one bad game, it’s out of the way. We’ll be fine. Andrew understands.”
I’m sure Bynum appreciates the lecture. Let’s take a look at the first 135 seconds of the Lakers loss to the Grizzlies 3 days ago:
10:52 - Pau Gasol misses 16-foot jumper
10:33 - Pau Gasol misses 19-foot jumper
10:15 - Pau Gasol misses 17-foot jumper
09:45 - Pau Gasol misses 17-foot jumper
Please, Pau Gasol, tell me more about who should be taking what shots.
So what does Brown do after Gasol misses the Lakers’ fourth shot in a row to start the game? Nothing. He didn’t bench Gasol for playing outside his strength. He didn’t bench Gasol for repeatedly making the same mistake over and over. Yet, two days later, Brown does punish Bynum, and Gasol decides to be didactic?
“I guess, ‘Don’t take 3’s is the message, but I’m going to take another one and I’m going to take some more, so I just hope it’s not the same result.”
- Andrew Bynum
You know what kind of people hate inconsistent treatment, and public emasculation? 24-year old kids like Andrew Bynum. He’s been watching Kobe Bryant jack shots for 7 straight years, doing exactly what’s been asked of him without complaint, to the tune of back-to-back championship titles. He’s been underestimated, relegated to third wheel status behind Gasol, and sometimes fourth behind Odom, injured and understandably frustrated with his career to this point. Now he’s finally healthy, coming into his own during a wild, unpredictable season, while learning a new system on both ends of the court, still adjusting to play with a ball-dominant Kobe Bryant, and waiting in the paint for the rebound off Pau Gasol’s missed 3-point shot, and you’re wondering why he’s lashing out?
Tip of the iceberg for Mike Brown. Earlier this week, the head coach publicly benched Bryant, only with ESPN cameras this time, for playing exactly the way Kobe’s played his entire career. Brown’s explanation?
“I felt I wanted to make a sub at the time.”
Here’s an idea, Coach Brown: instead of punishing both men in front of the cameras, talk to each behind them. Give those players the respect a man, and multi-million dollar, championship athlete deserves. And when you get frustrated again, Coach Brown, please remember: these Lakers’ go as far as Bryant and Bynum drag them.
This road will never be easy for the new coach. Brown is replacing Phil Jackson, a man who is not only world-famous for dealing with team strife, but could earn the respect of his players simply by flashing his golden knuckles. On the other hand, Brown’s résumé shows a history of weakness. In his only other head coaching job in the NBA, Brown let LeBron James ran roughshod over Cleveland. Could Mike now be over-compensating to avoid the same criticism?
This NBA season is different than any before it, with compressed schedules, accelerated travel, and no practice time, now more than ever head coaches need to be pillars of support and models of consistency for their players. The only thing Mike Brown has done consistently is tinker with his lineups. Two weeks ago, Josh McRoberts couldn’t get off the bench, and rookie shooting guard Andrew Goudelock was playing 15-20 minutes per game. Now, it’s completely reversed. A certain level of experimentation is expected for a new coaching staff and new offensive and defensive systems, but somebody remind the head coach there are only 16 games left. NBA teams like to find a groove just before the Playoffs. The Lakers will be lucky to have a locked rotation.
This core has won titles together, and it’s clear Mike Brown does not have their respect. Bynum said he’d shoot more from distance. Bryant called the coaching staff’s “experience” into question. Steve Blake was the starter “for the remainder of the season,” but Brown has changed course, and is still searching for the right mix off the bench. To top it off, are the players now worried if they make a mistake they’ll be punished on cable television?
Cats and dogs, living together… All in a day’s work for Lakers’ head coach Mike Brown.
Think Derek Fisher could have helped with this mess?