LOS ANGELES -- Brian Shaw stepped out of the visitors' locker room and into his past at Staples Center.
After so many years as a Los Angeles Lakers player and assistant coach, he was on the other side of the scorer's table Sunday for an exhibition game, his first as a head coach.
Shaw was hired by the Denver Nuggets after interviews with countless teams over the years to be a head coach.
Of course, he hoped to get a chance with the Lakers last November after they fired Mike Brown. Shaw was an assistant with the Indiana Pacers at the time.
"There were some opportunities that I would've loved to jump at," he said before the Nuggets' 97-88 victory over the Lakers.
Even though Mike D'Antoni got the job, Shaw continued to track the Lakers' travails and remained close to Kobe Bryant.
"I think he'll be out for the season (opener). I think that's realistic to say," Shaw said, referring to the torn Achilles tendon sustained by Bryant. "But I believe that he'll just take off right where he left off when he does come back."
Shaw noted the obvious difference in expectations for the Lakers, saying it might be good for them.
"For one of the first times in a while, they won't come into the season as a favorite or one of the top contenders in the league," he said. "It will be a different vantage point that they're coming from and that might help them out."
Shaw inherited a Denver team that finished third in the Western Conference last season but lost Andre Iguodala in a one-sided trade with Golden State.
Before his first game action as a head coach, he couldn't help but mention Phil Jackson, for whom he helped win three championships as a player and then two as a Lakers assistant coach from 2005-11.
"I had a great mentor to kind of watch and follow," he said. "A lot of what I do just seems natural because I've seen him do it for so long."
He saw Jackson recently at a coaching clinic where Jackson was a speaker.
Shaw said he learned something important from his mentor.
"One of the big things is patience. He allowed for the players to kind of figure some things out on their own. I've been trying to do the same thing. Not spoon-feed them everything but just enough and then see who has the ability to be able to figure out exactly what they need to do."
LAKERS LOSE JOHNSON
Wesley Johnson sustained a strained left foot in the first quarter against Denver and will undergo an MRI exam Monday, though it seemed precautionary more than anything.
"There was some burning sensation in his foot," D'Antoni said. "He wasn't real sure about how he did it."
Johnson played eight minutes and made one of five shots with two turnovers after starting at shooting guard.
Pau Gasol had 13 points on four-for-13 shooting and Steve Nash was scoreless with six assists. Xavier Henry had 15 points after scoring 29 in an exhibition opener but sustained a sprained right wrist after falling in Sunday's game.
Jordan Farmar sat out because of a sore calf, and Chris Kaman was given the night off.
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