LOS ANGELES: When Mike Brown was in the process of returning to the Cavaliers, a successful coach whom he wouldn’t name asked him if he was sure he wanted to start over with a young team. Brown told him yes, that he was excited to return to Cleveland and excited about the potential.
“I don’t think I’d ever do that again,” the coach told him. “If you have a young team, their first thing when they get in the league is they’re thinking about individual accolades because they’re thinking about their first or their next biggest deal, whether it’s All-Star or scoring leader or All-Rookie and it can take away from the true focus of the team environment.”
As Brown takes his young Cavaliers back to Los Angeles today in his first return to Staples Center since the Lakers fired him, the coach’s words are ringing true. Brown concedes he has battled that with his young players, and their immaturity showed again Sunday during an embarrassing 124-80 loss at the Sacramento Kings, when Brown said their competitive spirit dissipated during the second half of what became the worst loss in the NBA this season.
This is a far different team than Brown coached during his first time in Cleveland or the teams he coached in Los Angeles. Those were veteran-laden championship contenders at both stops.
This is a team Brown concedes he’s unsure what to expect from on a given night, which is why he couldn’t assure another beatdown like what the Cavs experienced in Sacramento won’t happen again.
“I never thought it would be like this again,” Brown said Sunday after the loss. “But knowing my team, it could happen again to us.”
Brown was fired just five games into his second season with the Lakers. He didn’t seem to be in Los Angeles long enough to plant deep roots.
Only one Los Angeles reporter showed up to practice Monday and Brown didn’t seem to long for a return to the West Coast — although Monday’s 75-degree temperatures were in stark contrast to a polar vortex.
“I’m a guy that’s able to move on pretty quickly,” he said. “I’m enjoying the situation I’m in now. I’m enjoying being in Cleveland with that organization and these players.”
When Brown took the Lakers job, he felt badly about uprooting his family and moving them across the country, particularly with his oldest son, Elijah, in the middle of high school.
So he left it up to the family to choose where they would live in Los Angeles, and after looking at a few different schools, Elijah chose famed Mater Dei.
So the family bought a home in Anaheim Hills, which Brown remembers is a 43-mile drive from Los Angeles. In terms of Los Angeles traffic, it might as well be the distance from Cleveland to Columbus. On a good day, Brown could make it in 50 minutes. But during rush hour? It could take as long as two and a half hours.
“I figured for me to make the drive was a little thing to give them an opportunity to be where they thought they wanted to go,” Brown said.
Sixth-worst team loss
Sunday’s loss to the Kings was the sixth-worst in team history, according to Elias Sports Bureau, and the worst since losing to these same Lakers in Staples Center 112-57 during the first season after Brown was fired by the Cavs.
It’s only coincidence the Cavs happen to be heading back to Staples Center after another bad loss.
“We have to put it behind us quickly because it was bad,” Anderson Varejao said Monday. “The second half was terrible. We have to forget about it and think about the next game.”
As for any lingering emotions about returning to Los Angeles, Varejao doesn’t see any in Brown.
“I don’t think Mike takes anything personal,” Varejao said. “He’s a guy who deals very well with stuff like that. He’s very professional.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.