Roundtable: Assessing the coaches
Given the Lakers' talent, no one is under more pressure than Mike Brown
Now in the final year of his contract, Scott Skiles seems poised for an early exit
Which rookie coach will tally more wins?; is Gregg Popovich the best coach?
SI.com NBA writers Sam Amick, Paul Forrester, Lee Jenkins, Chris Mannix and Ian Thomsen examine the coaching landscape in advance of the 2012-13 season.
Sam Amick: Mike Brown, without question. He has two guaranteed seasons left on the $18 million deal he signed in 2011 (and a fourth-year team option), and I'd be surprised if he's back for 2013-14 if these Lakers don't win it all. His shortcomings as an offensive coach should be shored up this season with the addition of Eddie Jordan as an assistant. The former Kings, Wizards and 76ers coach is expected to install a Princeton offense that has elements of the sorely missed triangle offense that left with Phil Jackson in 2011.
Paul Forrester: Remember, if you will, the 2009-10 season, when Brown led a Cavaliers team whose hopes of retaining LeBron James the following summer rested largely on winning a championship. Once again, Brown is coaching for a franchise's future, this time with Dwight Howard's free-agent signature at stake. Brown has more help this time, but should the Lakers fall short of the Finals, he'll be out the door. Equally crucial will be Brown's ability to forge a relationship with the Lakers' new center while not undermining Kobe Bryant's ownership of the team. That's a thin rope Brown is walking, one he knows may not end well.
Lee Jenkins: Vinny Del Negro, because this is such an important season for the Clippers, with Chris Paul due to become a free agent July 1. The Clippers were thrilled to win a playoff series last season, but Paul will want to see more progress before he commits long term, and the onus falls on Del Negro. The Clippers' roster is deeper than the Lakers', and anything less than a trip to the Western Conference finals will probably be a disappointment for Paul.
Chris Mannix: Brown. The Lakers' coach was handed a former two-time MVP point guard (Steve Nash) and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year (Howard) and brought on board an offensive guru (Jordan) to blend them together. It's championship or bust in Tinseltown, and Brown will be shown the door if he comes up short.
Ian Thomsen: That would be Brown. If you were to ask which coach is most used to being under pressure, it would also be Brown. The Lakers have been reinvented around Bryant -- they'll be playing an entirely new style through Nash; Howard will be the new Shaq (though Howard's status after back surgery is still TBD); and at the same time Pau Gasol cannot be neglected. The longer it takes the Lakers to figure out their new approach, the more the pressure will grow on Brown, especially with coaching candidates like Nate McMillan and Mike D'Antoni on the sideline as available hires. But this was the job Brown wanted two summers ago, and his years with the Cavaliers as well as last season in L.A. surely have weathered him for the pressures to come.
Amick: It may wind up being Scott Skiles. He's entering the final year of his contract and has a roster with just enough talent to get a lame-duck coach fired if the victories just aren't coming easily enough. Add in the fact that Skiles tends to grate on players, who always have leverage in these types of situations, and he's a prime candidate.
Forrester: If I were Randy Wittman, I'd think twice before buying real estate in the nation's capital. The Wizards were smart to dump Andray Blatche and draft Bradley Beal, but if former No. 1 pick John Wall can't make a leap in development this season, Washington will lag again. The Wizards haven't posted a winning percentage better than .317 since 2007-08, and with the NHL on lockdown, Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis may not be in a mood to weather another dispiriting season. A slow start could mean a quick exit for Wittman.
Jenkins: Skiles will have to make the Brandon Jennings-Monta Ellis backcourt experiment work in Milwaukee. He is entering the final year of his contract and the Bucks have missed the playoffs each of the past two seasons, their chances damaged by injuries to now-departed center Andrew Bogut. If Jennings and Ellis cannot coexist, Skiles' fifth year in Milwaukee could be his last.
Mannix: Maybe he's fired, maybe he walks away out of frustration, but Skiles, coaching in the final year of his contract, would appear to be a prime candidate for an early exit. On paper, the Bucks have the talent to be a playoff team. But the defense slipped last season, from fourth to 16th in points allowed per possession, and the additions of shot-blockers Samuel Dalembert and Joel Przybilla may not be enough to address the decline. Throw in questionable chemistry between Jennings and Ellis, and if the Bucks start slowly, things could unravel quickly.
Thomsen: I don't know if he'll be fired or if he'll be seeking to leave in the final year of his deal, but it's been no secret that Skiles was interested in a buyout after last season. And, of course, Brown will be under pressure from opening day in L.A.
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