SAN ANTONIO — The words all sounded the same regarding the Lakers reaction to the Cleveland Cavaliers hiring Mike Brown as their head coach five months after the Lakers fired him five games into the season.
The praise started with his coaching replacement.
“I’m happy for him,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Good for him. It’s good. He’ll do a great job.”
The encouraging words also trickled down to Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. All of them said some variance of “I’m happy for him.” Both Nash and Gasol called Brown “a really good coach” praising his defensive principles and work ethic. Howard also described Brown as a “great guy.”
But that doesn’t mean any of the Lakers have maintained much of a relationship with him.
“I haven’t spoken to him or communicated with him since shortly after he was let go,” Nash said. “But I’m happy for him.”
Brown led the Lakers to a third place finish in the Western Conference last season (41-25) before bowing out of the Western Conference semifinals to Oklahoma City in five games. Last season, players generally respected his work ethic and agreeable personality. But they quickly tired of his shuffling rotations and long practices and film sessions, so much that they dismissively described him as “All Day, Every Day.” The Lakers front office remained supportive of Brown through last season, citing the lock-out shortened season, a shortened training camp, the nixed Chris Paul deal and trading Lamar Odom that contributed to the Lakers’ struggles outside of Brown’s control.
Yet, the Lakers fired him following a 1-4 start, citing their skepticism that elements of his Princeton-based offense would work. The Lakers quickly signed D’Antoni, who kept all of his assistants, including Bernie Bickerstaff, Chuck Person, Steve Clifford, Eddie Jordan and Darvin Ham. Yet, D’Antoni admitted he didn’t talk with Brown after his arrival despite his familiarity with both his coaching staff and players.
“It’s something you have to go through,” D’Antoni said. “I got all his assistant coaches. They’re together so whatever he knew, they knew.”
Jordan officially left the Lakers this week after accepting the head-coaching position at Rutgers University. But D’Antoni said it’s too early to know how Brown’s second stint with Cleveland will affect his current coaching staff.
“I’m thinking about San Antonio,” D’Antoni said, referring to Game 2 of the Lakres’ first-round series where they trail the Spurs, 1-0. “That’s all I got time for and then we’ll figure out everything else later. I’m not even thinking about it.”
Still, it’s clear the Lakers will financially benefit from it.
The Lakers are expected to receive some from the $6.5 million to $7 million they owe Brown over the next two years.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org