During Tuesday night’s 84-82 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers displayed that they may ultimately benefit from going through a mid-season coaching change and having a prolonged interim coach.
With a group of new and old players forced to work in a rigid system that clearly wasn’t working, this Lakers team of superstars was publicly embarrassed, questioned, and mentally broken. By the time Mike Brown was fired, the Lakers were a frustrated bunch that couldn’t score, couldn’t defend, and had seemingly forgotten how to play basketball.
For the week following Mike Brown’s exit, interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff simplified the offense, erased the defense, and told his players to just go out and play. By rolling the ball out and giving the players the freedom to play, the team of superstars remembered that they were, in fact, superstars.
Suddenly, the Lakers were making shots, opening big leads, and, most importantly, winning.
On Tuesday night, the San Antonio Spurs came to Staples Center. The free-balling Lakers started off slow.
The Spurs were up 10-2 in the first two and a half minutes. There was no panic, however, because interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff had given these players their swagger back.
By the end of the quarter, the Lakers had taken a 24-18 lead with Kobe Bryant chalking up 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists in the quarter.
Ultimately, the Lakers lost in a nail biter. But that result was not important. The Lakers competed with the best team in the Western conference for 48 minutes with an interim coach on the sidelines.
Bickerstaff’s decision to allow the players to be free when the ball is in play gave this team the gift of improved communication. For the past three games, these players have been talking on both ends of the floor because Bernie Bickerstaff does not insist on calling plays every time down.
The continuous verbal communication, hand signals, and teamwork displayed over the past three games should go a long way when Mike D’Antoni finally takes over control. Bernie Bickerstaff’s greatest contribution to the team was letting these players get to know each other and regain their lost confidence.
"Bernie breathed life into us," Metta World Peace said after the game. "We were 1-15 or 1-20. Bernie comes in, and we’re winning by 20, 30 points."
Sometimes, less coaching is the best coaching.