Hubbard: Need we be reminded that it’s a players league?

Mike Brown Anderson VarajeoWhen Mike Brown was hired by the Cleveland Cavaliers last week, there were multiple feelings of déjà vu. One was obvious – Brown was returning to a team that had fired him three years earlier.

We have all been here before.

But the other was more subtle and had to do with the fundamental reality not only of today’s NBA, but also of today’s professional sports.

When Brown was banished from the Cavaliers in 2010, one reason is that he had the image of being somewhat of a pedestrian coach and not the type who would appeal to a superstar (i.e.  LeBron James, who left anyway after Brown was fired).

But now Brown has been brought back to Cleveland and there was rampant speculation that one reason would be his attractiveness to – pause to roll your eyes here – LeBron James, who can opt out of his Miami contract after next season.

Some of us are having a challenge understanding that suggestion. In between his stints with the Cavaliers, Brown spent a year with ESPN, where he did an acceptable job, delivering analysis in his bubbly baritone manner.

And then he coached the Lakers for one season plus five games but was fired, in part, because of his anti-Showtime offensive philosophy, which is to say he didn’t do a very good job of creating a Kobe Bryant-friendly system.

jimgraySo what he has done to become a recruiting tool for James is a question that even Jim Gray probably can’t answer, although perhaps that will be revealed in The Decision II.

But that’s where the other part of the déjà vu occurs. It wouldn’t qualify as history repeating itself – perhaps more like history parodying itself.

When Phil Jackson left the Lakers for the first time in 2004, he said it was partially because his relationship with Bryant had become so fractured that he had to seek psychological help.

At the time, we all marveled that Dennis Rodman had not sent Jackson into therapy, but Kobe did.

Jackson, however, recharged in only a year and returned to the Lakers – and perhaps to his regular therapist, although we don’t know that for sure – and embraced the challenge of coaching Bryant again.

And that’s where the more subtle sense of déjà vu surfaced. Brown was fired and rehired; Jackson retired and returned. And in each case, it was primarily because of a great player.

We have, indeed, all been here before.

If we are to believe the popular theories, Brown was not attractive to James three years ago but might be next summer, when James can be a free agent.


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