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Lakers’ Brown: ‘We’ve already bounced back from adversity’

Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown and star Kobe Bryant reacted Tuesday as if the opening 29-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder was just another loss.That, in contrast to Devin Ebanks, who had knocked over a chair and stripped his jersey after being ejected in the last minutes of Monday’s embarrassing effort.”We’ve already bounced back from adversity. Our guys have been through it in a Game 7 (vs. the Denver Nuggets). I think we’ll be able to handle what we’re going through in a way that a veteran team should,” Brown told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday.MORE: Kobe doesn’t like to take chargesPHOTOS: Top highlights from the NBA playoffsBryant was as matter-of-fact ahead of Wednesday’s Game 2: “We’re a team that doesn’t get down when we get blown out. We’ve been blown out a bunch of times this season, blown out last series a couple times. We’re used to dealing with that.”Laker Nation is not, with Magic Johnson suggesting Brown would have been fired had the team not escaped the Nuggets last round.Brown not only shrugs it off, saying arguing the point is “wasted energy,” but also tells USA TODAY Sports, “I feel like I’ve done a solid job with the opportunities I’ve gotten.”Will he be coaching the team next season?”Of course. I expect to be back,” said Brown, who believes he has the backing of general manager Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss, executive vice president of player personnel.Asked to respond, the team referred to last week’s statement of support after Johnson said Brown would be fired if the Lakers did not beat the Nuggets. Kupchak, through a Lakers spokesman, said he would not comment until after the season.”This team has gone through a lot of adversity,” Brown said. ” “I expect the guys to bounce back and play better.”Brown has led the Lakers to the No. 3 seed in the West despite a trying season. Last year under then-coach Phil Jackson, they were a No. 2 seed and were swept out of the second round by the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers had won the previous two NBA championships.While Brown prefers to avoid the Jackson comparisons, the fact is he has dealt with more adversity and turnover. He instituted a motion offense instead of Jackson’s triple-post, or triangle, offense. There are seven new players on this roster.There was the botched preseason trade of Pau Gasol that rattled him most of the season, the trade of 2011 Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom, Bryant’s concussion and shin injury, the trade of locker room leader Derek Fisher, Metta World Peace’s seven-game suspension for a flagrant foul and Andrew Bynum’s four-game suspension, defiance and admitted lackadaisical efforts on defense.Still, none of this matters when coaching the Lakers. They expect results, including Johnson.”I’m not going to sit here and try to argue with somebody every time they make a comment about me, about my team,” said Brown, who has not spoken with Johnson since his comments. “I’m not going to control it, nor try to control it nor fight it.”A lot of the criticism is based on a perception of Brown that he’s too soft on players and the suspicion that they don’t respond to him. But that’s contrary to what Donnie Walsh witnessed as CEO and president of the Indiana Pacers. In his first week as associate head coach under then-coach Rick Carlisle from 2003-05, Brown clashed with Ron Artest, now known as World Peace, and threw him out of practice after a heated exchange.Brown now coaches World Peace in Los Angeles. Walsh remembers Brown’s demeanor as calm but anything but timid.”Mike was not easy on the players. He was very firm and very definite in what he wanted them to do. That’s why I was impressed by him. He wasn’t trying to get over by being friends,” Walsh said. “He wasn’t trying to be one of them.”He was definitely coach and he expected them to do whatever it was he was expecting them to do. He didn’t have to raise his voice and scream or yell at guys a lot. He just let them know when they were wrong in a very stern way. That’s what I found to be impressive about him”He knows what the job is. He does his role…. Even at a young age he wanted to do it right.”Lance Blanks, now general manager of the Phoenix Suns, was director of scouting and assistant general manager for the Cleveland Cavaliers for five years when Brown was coach. With LeBron James as his centerpiece, Brown led that franchise to 127 wins in his final two seasons before being fired.”Good leader. Very good qualities and consistent in who he was in his approach and professionalism,” Blanks said. “He has the right temperament for most all situations. At the same time he knows how to enjoy the journey and the process to lead and coach. He has a healthy balance.”Being a quality person shouldn’t be a strike against you for managing and handling superstars. I think who he is and what he is is reflected in his work. … If you look at his defensive record, it speaks for itself. I don’t think you can have that kind of consistent success, particularly on that end of the floor, and be a guy that doesn’t have a fire burning inside of him. It’s reflected in his defensive results in each place he’s been.”At some point he’ll win and all the scrutiny will go away.”It’ll be difficult to win with the Lakers as they’re constructed today, especially when one controversy arises after the next. World Peace was suspended for seven games after elbowing Thunder guard James Harden in the head April 22. But Brown was satisfied with his growth as a player since those days in Indiana when World Peace was at the center of the 2004 brawl at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., that led to his 73-game regular-season suspension.”It’s completely different dealing with him now than what it was from ’03 to ’05. You can sense and feel the maturity that he has now in terms of having the self-control and all that other stuff that he didn’t quite have back then,” Brown said. “He actually has had some instances, but he definitely has grown a lot. He’s more manageable to coach now then when he was in the past when he was going through different types of issues.”He showed some remorse. He stepped up and took the criticism and he faced the music and he moved forward instead of flat-out denying it or putting the blame someplace else or anything like that. I really thought he tried to explain himself as best he could at first and then he knew that was just going to cause more problems for him so he just shut up about it.”And that’s much the way Brown is approaching this tough stretch. He’ll speak only so much about his job status and his ability to lead but doesn’t feel the need to convince anyone outside the Lakers organization that he’s the man for the job.”I’m pretty good at shrugging it off,” Brown said. “You want everybody to like you and say positive stuff about you and all that other stuff, but that’s now how this world works. I’m OK with it. I’m more than OK with it.”

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