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NBA.com spoke to James after practice about the then-possible hiring of Brown by the Lakers, and the former Cavs star was more than effusive with praise for his former coach.
“If it’s true, when it’s official,” James said, “I think the Lakers got them a great coach.”
“Mike Brown was a great coach,” James said. “He gave us success that we hadn’t had before in that city. And it started with his defensive concepts. He brought in a defensive mind set that we didn’t have.”
“We were competitive year after year because of his coaching. So I respect him and I’m grateful to have had him as a coach throughout the years that I had him. He definitely helped me become who I am today.”
This is coming from a player who put on one of the better defensive performances we’ve seen individually in recent history, and there have been some impressive defensive performances in an era shared by Kevin Garnett, Ron Artest, and Dwight Howard.
This is also coming from a player who many say undermined Brown not only on the floor, breaking plays, but also in the locker room, getting his way in terms of perks and positions for members of his crew in the organization, and generally running roughshod with the power granted by being a franchise player.
But James could have declined comment, just as he could have declined comment when asked about the lottery win for Cleveland. But he stuck up for his old coach and said he was happy for Cleveland to get the top pick. Nothing he say will be well received, but at least he’s making the effort.
For the Lakers, though? They had best be aware that all that defensive discipline and philosophy comes with a price, and if the veteran egos aren’t willing to take a backseat to get back to the title, this may work out the same way it worked out in Cleveland.