Jackson a positive influence on Brown
By Ross Siler Staff Writer
EL SEGUNDO - No matter how low Kwame Brown got last season, Lakers coach Phil Jackson refused to introduce any more negativity into Brown's basketball mindset.
When Brown was struggling with the triangle offense - struggling sometimes just to catch the ball in the post - Jackson tried to break down the game to its basics. All he asked of Brown was to run the floor, rebound and play defense.
Now the Lakers are hoping Brown can put together the pieces and pick up where he left off last season, when he averaged 12.4 points and 8.6 rebounds in the final 18 games with Chris Mihm lost to an ankle injury.
Just a few days before the opening of training camp next week, Brown talked about the importance of gaining his teammates' trust and believing in himself. The difference this season could be as simple as having confidence with the ball down low instead of quickly unloading it to Kobe Bryant or Lamar Odom.
"I think now that when I get the ball, I've earned the trust in them and in myself to go ahead and go to work," Brown said.
General manager Mitch Kupchak said a change of scenery undoubtedly benefited Brown, who came to the Lakers last summer in a sign-and-trade deal from Washington. Even now, though, Brown is far from a fully developed player.
"He has to just be in the gym and continue to work on his game," Kupchak said. "He has all the physical gifts that any player would die to have. But it's been that way since high school. Everybody knows that.
"He made great strides the last 1<MD+,%30,%55,%70>1/<MD-,%0,%55,%70>2 months last season, but he has to build on that and continue that this season."
Brown walked around all summer with a card in his wallet bearing the numbers 15 and 10. Jackson gave it to him at the team's exit meetings in May, trying to motivate Brown with a goal of points and rebounds he could average this season.
Asked if this could be a breakthrough year for him, Brown did not hesitate in answering yes. He is only 24, younger even than Smush Parker, yet will be entering his sixth NBA season.
"I don't like saying that because every year I've said that, I've gotten hurt," Brown said. "After my third year, I had a great finish with the Wizards, then I broke my foot that summer.
"I just want to come in healthy. That's it. If I come in healthy with a positive attitude, then I'm good."
Brown spent the off-season strengthening his legs to avoid a repeat of the hamstring injury that cost him 10 games last season. He worked on the jump hooks and short jumpers he hopes will become staples of his game.
When it comes to his free-throw shooting, Brown also might be a changed man.
He shot a career-worst 54.5 percent last season and admitted being wary of going to the line. But Brown is able to laugh at the memory of his unfortunate airballs.
"It's not that I improved as a foul shooter; I improved mentally," Brown said. "Most of the time, I didn't even want to get fouled because I didn't want to go to the line.
"At the end of the year, all they would do is foul me, so I'm like, `OK, I've got to go to the line, so you might as well stand in there and just make it."'