Brown faces former team

Brown faces former team

Published Jan. 13, 2012 10:26 a.m. ET

The Cleveland Cavaliers who step onto the Staples Center court Friday won't resemble the group that walked off the floor in defeat under Coach Mike Brown in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals.

Gone from the team that lost to Boston in six games are LeBron James, Mo Williams, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, J.J. Hickson and Shaquille O'Neal. Also missing from the Cavaliers will be Brown, whose team's collapse in the series after holding a two-games-to-one lead cost him his job.

Brown is now the Lakers' coach, trying to bring his new team something he could not achieve in Cleveland: an NBA title.

That's not to say Brown didn't succeed in his five seasons in Cleveland. He won a franchise-record 66% of his games and took the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007. But he couldn't win the title that owner Dan Gilbert coveted and had his offensive imagination and player rotations questioned by James.

The always gracious Brown hardly seemed bitter after his dismissal. He thanked Gilbert for his first NBA head coaching opportunity and later said working with James helped prepare him for his next superstar pupil, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant.

Bryant has slightly upstaged Miami's James this season, averaging 30.3 points to James' 29.0 points despite playing with a torn ligament in his right wrist. Bryant's last two performances have been superlative; 48 points in a victory over Phoenix on Tuesday and 40 in a triumph over Utah the following night.

"They're both competitive, they both want to win," Brown said when asked about Bryant and James. "There's just a different feel to the two guys that it's hard to put into words right now. They're both obviously guys that know how to perform at a high level.

"Their games are very different on both ends of the floor, but especially offensively. LeBron is a guy who is still learning and still growing and the reality of it is, being down there with Dwyane Wade is helping him. Every year, every game, he's getting better."

The differences carry over to their personalities, Brown said.

"LeBron, he's a guy that likes to laugh and joke and he knows there's a time to be serious," Brown said. "He's youthful, I guess. That's probably the word, where Kobe is not as much. Kobe is more serious-minded, but Kobe knows how to have fun in his own way too."

--Ben Bolch