Missoula
59° F
Scattered Clouds
Scattered Clouds
Kalispell
55° F
Rain
Rain
Bozeman
58° F
Clear
Clear
Advertisement

Scott takes on big challenge as Lakers coach

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Jul 29 2014 06:08:45 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 30 2014 08:30:53 AM MDT
Byron Scott, December 2012

Adam Hunger/Reuters

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -

The stars were aligned Tuesday morning at Los Angeles Lakers headquarters. None beamed brighter than Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

With the Lakers formally introducing Byron Scott as their new head coach, Johnson, who frequently clashed the past few years with Lakers brass, couldn't contain his giddiness.

"I'm so happy because Coach Scott is a very disciplined man and he's going to instill that in this team," said Johnson, who sat front row with former Lakers giants Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes. "That's what we need right now. We need somebody who can come in and really help these guys understand that if we're going to win and be successful, it starts at the defensive end. And then also, we have to rebound because you can't do anything without defense and rebounding."

Those were foreign concepts under the most recent Lakers coach, offensive-minded Mike D'Antoni. The Lakers were atrocious defensively, finishing 29th of 30 teams in the NBA in points allowed (109.2 per game). Only the woeful Philadelphia 76ers were worse.

The Lakers were 25th in rebounding, averaging 41 per game while allowing the opposition to grab 49 boards per game. And, just to throw more salt in their wounds, the Lakers finished 27-55, the worst record since the club moved to the City of Angels.

Expectations aren't high for the 2014-15 season, either. The roster experienced only minor upgrades with the addition of point guard Jeremy Lin, aging forward Carlos Boozer and the team's first-round draft pick, power forward Julius Randle.

Questions also remain on how effective guard Kobe Bryant, who played in only six games after injuries derailed his season, can be again. Ditto for point guard Steve Nash, who spent an injury-plagued season watching from the sideline almost as much time as Bryant.

The Lakers are hurting from their failure to land any major free agents during the offseason despite a concerted effort to attract forward Carmelo Anthony, among others.

Even so, Scott, who was part of three NBA titles with the 1980s Showtime Lakers, likes the makeup of the current roster, particularly if Bryant can return anywhere close to form. With an emphasis on defense, Scott said it won't take long for the Lakers to become a contender again.

"The one thing I told Mitch and Jim (in) our last meetings was I thought they put a roster together that we will be very competitive," said Scott, referring to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and owner Jim Buss. "The main thing I have to do is establish ourselves as a defensive basketball team."

The Lakers defended the search that took months to produce Scott's hiring as coach.

"From the beginning, although we went through a long process where we interviewed a lot of candidates, we thought early on that Byron was the leader and right choice from the beginning," Kupchak said. "Our feeling was let's create a roster, let's get through the draft (and) make sure we had the right coach.

"We could have hired a coach a month and a half ago, but at that point now we'd be doing things different. We chose to create a roster, and our gut instinct on Byron was that he was the right coach, and obviously we feel that way today."

Scott said the wait didn't bother him. He said he began to get weary from Lakers fans asking him. A trip to the Caribbean, where he learned he was picked as the franchise's 25th coach, was the answer.

"I just felt they would make the right decision and the best decision," Scott said of the Buss family. "And I'm a little arrogant when it comes to that because I thought I was the best decision and the right decision. So the waiting didn't really bother me. The only thing that bothered me was the questions I got asked every day from fans. And that really didn't bother me, but it takes a toll after a while. But the wait didn't bother me at all."

Johnson can't wait to be a sounding board for his old backcourt mate.

"I told him, 'I'm here,'" said Johnson, who was on the outs with Lakers management with his sometimes harsh criticism of Buss, D'Antoni and former coach Mike Brown. "And whether I need to come to practice, whatever, whatever he needs me to do. That's why we're all here. We want to support him, and we want the Lakers to win. It messes up my year whole year when the Lakers are not successful. Last couple of years have been so bad for me personally."

Scott said he would do everything in his power to bring the Lakers back to prominence. That will take at least a few years, but he isn't deterred.

"This organization is all about championships. Period," Scott said. "We don't look at Western Conference finals, Western Conference championships, we look at (NBA) championships. We know we have some work ahead of us, but I'm excited. Just thrilled to death. I'm eager, and just ready to get to work. I know it's going to be a challenge, but I look forward to it. I love challenges anyway, so this is going to be fun."

It might be fun now to talk about those challenges, but when play begin this fall, it probably won't be the joyride Scott envisioned. The Lakers are unlikely to make the playoffs, and they will have their work cut out to avoid another losing season.

The stars must be aligned properly in the Lakers' universe for the team to enjoy a quick turnaround, no matter how much magic Scott has.