As reported earlier by Ramona Shelburne, the Lakers will not go wanting for elevation next season. Shannon Brown has decided to remain a Laker, agreeing on a deal worth $4.6 million over two years, the second one a player option. I spoke with his agent Mark Bartelstein, who confirmed the report and added some thoughts on Shannon's mindset:
"It took a lot of mulling over in his mind on what to do, but he came to a feeling this is where he wanted to be and kind of followed his heart."
In breaking down Shannon's reported options last week, his decision-making process struck me as a one where playing time, contract and aesthetics were weighed. With that in mind, from where I'm sitting, YouTube came out pretty well in this setup.
Monetarily, Bartelstein says his client passed up more lucrative offers, but Shannon nonetheless earned a raise of about $400,000 from the reported terms of his last deal with the Lakers, and can always opt out again if he thinks greener pastures (pun intended) are on the horizon. Of course, with an expected lockout approaching, it's nice to know you're safeguarded from being left high and dry. Shannon may not have earned a huge contract yet by NBA standards, but when seven figure salaries continue to roll in, security increasingly follows.
As for the playing time, the Knicks (widely reported as the Lakers' heaviest competition) could have offered more. Neither Kelenna Azubuike nor Wilson Chandler (who might spend more time at the three) present nearly the same competition as Kobe Bryant. That additional burn could do wonders for Shannon's growth and market value. Of course, the Lakers already want to lighten Kobe's load, so if he's up to the task, Brown could easily add to the career-high 20 minutes per game logged last season. Even if he didn't, he's arguably still in just as good of a place from a career-building standpoint. The better the players surrounding a role player, the more said role player tends to flourish. Without question, the left coast roster is superior to the other side. Shannon may shine more as a function of doing less.
And then there's the aesthetics.
Shannon has spent two seasons with the Lakers, basically as long as he's been anywhere during a career with a lot of bouncing around over relatively little time. Time in Los Angeles didn't just resuscitate his career. It provided a home base, which was predictably and emotionally hard to leave. "The fans have been great to him," said Bartelstein. "He loves living in L.A."
He also loves winning in L.A., and that being a priority, there's nothing better than being part of a perennial contender.
"It's a chance to go after a third championship," explained Bartelstein. "That's a very, very rare feat in professional sports, to have a chance to go after a Three-peat. I think that's something he did not want to go back on in life later and say, 'I could have been part of something very unique.' "
It's nice to see that chance not fall to the wayside, and in the meantime, the Lakers make out pretty well, too. Continuity is maintained, as one less player needs to learn their system. Brown is still a fairly raw player with a lot of room to grow, but he's demonstrated a willingness to listen and learn. His improvement was fairly steady before a midseason thumb injury clearly created issues with his shot, handle, and decision-making. Confidence (or lack thereof) also may have played a factor, knowing his dominant hand wouldn't be as reliable. But his performance pre-injury, and filling in for Kobe, demonstrated promise, and the Lakers have always liked his potential and attitude. Plus, Shannon's athleticism provides a change of pace, along with an ability to whip the crowd into a frenzy with his gravity-defying action.
Does Shannon's return to the fold guarantee Sasha Vujacic is on the verge of getting dealt? Not necessarily. I'm sure the Lakers wouldn't mind dealing The Machine, and I'd be surprised if they didn't continually explore options. But to a certain degree, one has nothing to do with the other. At some point, a backup for Kobe needs to be secured. If not Shannon, then who, and what are the odds of finding a good fit (much less a better one) at the same price? If they like Shannon in this role, and they clearly do, better to lock him up now -- even if it means a year of paying for him and Sasha -- than potentially force themselves into lesser options.
In any event, it's a happy day for Shannon, who's worked very hard and overcome a lot of adversity to reach this point. After not too long ago wondering how much longer he'd remain in the league, it's gotta be nice knowing his services are in demand.
Even with the NBA's best team.