LOS ANGELES – A baseball owner named Magic Johnson said on TV Friday night that Mike Brown would probably be fired as coach if the Lakers get eliminated in the first round. Brown had to address the semi-report Saturday around 11:15 a.m. after shootaround, and – oh, yeah – there is a Game 7 against the Nuggets that tips around 7:40 p.m. And this is only the beginning.
Brown being moved into the crosshairs by one of the most popular people in Los Angeles – although Dodgers minority owner/Lakers VP/close friend of Lakers owner Jerry Buss did not say and was not pressed whether his statement was a hunch or actual information – will be the least of the problems if Denver finishes the upset. Think stocking up on canned goods and water.
Being swept by the Mavericks last year was enough of a hellstorm, with the added element of the Lakers losing their composure in the finale, but that will be nothing compared to the reaction if the home team is eliminated Game 7 at Staples Center. Dallas was a championship team. Dallas never trailed 2-0 in the series.
The Nuggets completing the comeback would make May 12, 2012, one of the worst moments in franchise history. Brown might not be fired since Jim Buss made the controversial choice as head of basketball operations and will not be anxious to admit if he made the wrong choice to replace Phil Jackson. But the pressure that is already immeasurable will go way up for the start of 2012-13. And, naturally, there will be calls to break up the team.
“It’s something that shouldn’t be on our minds,” Pau Gasol said of the fallout if the Lakers lose. “We’ve got to be confident in our team and our group that we’re going to get the job done. You’ve got to put yourself mentally in a positive outcome. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to reach it.”
But, he admits, the pressure on the Lakers, not the Nuggets.
“You could say that,” Gasol said. “But regardless of who the pressure’s on, we’ve just got to deliver. It’s Game 7 and we’re playing at home. Hopefully Staples will be rocking and giving us the energy that we need and putting a lot of pressure on the opponent. Then we have to do the rest.”
Even if Brown survives, Johnson has pushed the speculation ball down a steep cliff. It can’t be stopped now, even if Magic, in his role as ABC/ESPN commentator, was speaking of a first-round loss. Winning here only to become an easy out for the Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals won’t make Brown’s ears bleed any less the next four months.
“My focus is on winning this game and that’s it,” Brown said Saturday after shootaround. “I don’t have any control over the other stuff. I think I told almost everybody here that’s covered me, ‘You guys have got jobs to do.’ Magic has a job to do. One of his jobs is to voice his opinion. He’s a great guy. But there’s nothing for me to be concerned about there. I’m playing and coaching to win this game tonight and that’s it.”
And the timing of Johnson for the second year in a row questioning the future of Lakers personnel the day before a possible elimination game?
“I think ESPN probably pays him seven figures,” Brown said. “He’s got to make comments whenever he feels it’s necessary to make comments, and he’s got to make the comments that he feels are the truth or that he believes in or whatever. He’s free to say what he wants. It doesn’t bother me.”