THE BLOG

Mike Brown Firing: Buss Wants Lakers' Showtime Back

11/11/2012 05:56 pm ET | Updated Jan 11, 2013
Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers shocked the sports world on Friday when they
fired second year coach Mike Brown after only five games in the
2012-13 NBA season. The Lakers have been the epitome of a stable
franchise known for their deliberate and astute decision making. Newly
acquired point guard Steve Nash, expected to make a major impact, has
been injured for most of the games and is not expected back. New
center, Dwight Howard is recovering from back surgery and is only able
to perform at roughly 70 percent of his normal capacity.

The staff has
installed a new "Princeton offense" which the players are still in the
process of adjusting too. With all of these challenges, fans had been
warned from the beginning that it would take some time to gel. The
team lost all eight of their preseason games -- but appeared to use them
as a chance to view different combinations of players rather than
focusing on victory. It lost four of the first five games, but the NBA
season consists of a prolonged regular season spreading 82 games over
many months and lengthy rounds of playoffs. So why weren't the Lakers
patient with the development process?

The Lakers have always been a unique franchise owned by unique owners.
Jack Kent Cooke assembled three mega-stars in the Forum -- Jerry West,
Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain, and the team competed for the
championship every year. They were colorful and talented -- "The
Greatest Show on Earth" with mercurial Cooke as the ringmaster and
they knew their market -- Los Angeles, Tinseltown. Los Angeles loves
stars and spectacle. Movie stars are stars and we look for athletes to
provide the same level of excellence and showmanship. Having grown up
here, except for the Dodgers, we are a city of frontrunners, looking
for the next hot happening.

Jerry Buss knew this when he purchased the team in 1979 and he
assembled his favorite team -- the one that ran "Showtime." Led by Magic
Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the Lakers played
electrifying fast break basketball and dazzled the fans. They had
attractive, marketable stars, and their rivalry with the Celtics was
magical. Coach Pat Riley was telegenic and flashy. This led to the
first group of the nine NBA Championship that the Buss regime has
aggregated. It also led to a move to the state of the art, more
profitable Staples Center. The Lakers started to compete with the
Dodgers for the heart of Southern California sports fans. The most
expensive seats sold first, ticket prices were hiked dramatically and
sponsorships soared. They were HOT!!! When "Showtime" aged a new cast
of superstars replaced it. Jerry West arranged trades for the draft
rights to Kobe Bryant and signed Shaquille O'Neal. They had a massive
MVP center with a charming personality and gift for gab and the best
young player in the game. Phil Jackson, the best coach in NBA history
added to the Championships. When Shaq left, they drafted Andrew Bynum,
a talented young center, and traded for Pau Gasol, an all-pro forward.

Jerry Buss has groomed his son Jim to replace him in day-to-day
operations assisted by astute General Manager, Mitch Kupchak. Jerry
has always understood the market he operates and insisted on exacting
standards and goals. He expects the Lakers to have the opportunity to
compete for the NBA Championship each and every year. They expect to
have a roster starring the most accomplished, exciting players in the
game. And they expect the team to play entertaining basketball. They
charge the second highest ticket price in the NBA. The Lakers charge
roughly $100 a ticket, which are premium prices. Their new local
television package with Time-Warner pays them $200 million a year,
arguably the highest in the NBA. And they knew the on-court formula
necessary to trigger the fan frenzy necessary to feed all of their
revenue streams.

When the Dallas Mavericks swept the Lakers four straight in last
year's playoffs the Buss family knew it was time to act decisively. They
traded for veteran point guard Steve Nash who they knew could feed the
ball to Bryant and power forward Pau Gasol and revitalize the offense.
And they arranged a trade for the best center in the game Dwight
Howard and shipped off moody and undependable Andrew Bynum. They
viewed the early returns on Mike Brown's "Princeton offense" and the
fact that they were 26th in NBA defense and went back to core
principals. They decided that even if players adjusted to the new
offense and started to win that it blunted the strengths of key stars
and even worse, it was boring. Their payroll is the League's largest
at 100 million, which gives them a luxury tax of $30 million. Against
those economic realities they didn't blink at the prospect of buying
out the last three years of Mike Brown's $11 million contract.

Jerry Buss is 78 and wants to spend his last years watching the type
of basketball that he and his fans love. Get ready for some SHOWTIME!