Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Lakers Bring Back Their Tradition With Scott

On the day Byron Scott became the new coach of the Lakers this summer three surprise guests attended the press conference.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Jamaal Wilkes were there to support their former teammate.

"I was very surprised and deeply touched," Scott told me last Thursday night prior to the Lakers' exhibition game against the Golden State Warriors.

"I didn't know they were coming to the press conference. It meant so much to me."

Granted a solo interview with Scott by the Lakers' public relations department I was alone with the new coach in his office in the Lakers' dressing room.

How did I get this interview while dozens of other reporters waited their turn? I suppose it had something to do with the fact I was the traveling Laker beat writer for 22 years, including the ones when Johnson and Scott were the Lakers' starting guards.

Oh, what memories.

I asked Scott if he thinks it's important for the Lakers to have a coach from their glory years following two unsuccessful seasons with a pair of outsiders, Mike Brown and Mike D'Antoni.

"I think it is," he said. "At least I hope it is. It might give players examples of what is expected from this franchise."

In my view the Lakers made a terrible mistake in wasting two years with coaches who had no Laker background. Not only did they bypass Phil Jackson they bypassed his assistants who probably would have carried on the winning tradition.

Hiring Scott now is a major step forward. Unfortunately the Lakers have been buried very deep by what's happened in the last two years. They have a long way to go to be a championship contender. Merely making the playoffs would be an accomplishment this season,

The damage done in the two years includes the Lakers no longer being a major player in free agency. An example is Kevin Love, the primary player they had targeted, no longer is a possibility. When LeBron James signed with Cleveland the Cavaliers worked a trade with Minnesota for Love, who signed for five years.

The Lakers thought their championship tradition would attract Love, who had starred at UCLA. Instead, Love went with a team more likely to be a championship contender now.

Scott and I discussed the irony of happenings in the NBA. You see, Scott's most recent coaching job was with a lowly Cleveland team. But look at the Cavaliers now. They're the favorite in the Eastern Conference.

I'd like to think the Lakers' decision to bring back one of their own will raise their chances a lot this season. Instead, league forecasters see San Antonio and Oklahoma City as the Western Conference favorites, followed by the Clippers and Golden State. The most likely teams to claim the No. 5 and 6 playoff seeds are Houston and Portland. The Lakers only figure to battle a bunch of other teams to slip into the playoffs.

The most impressive sight for me Thursday was the large crowd. You might think fans would be turned off by the Lakers' play in the last two years, but apparently the return of Kobe Bryant is enough to keep season tickets selling well.

The Warriors thrashed the Lakers, who were badly outplayed on the frontline. In the first quarter Bryant had 10 points and backcourt partner Jeremy Lin had seven. But the Lakers, who trailed 35-27, got only 10 points from their frontline and the defense was as porous as last season.

A glaring weakness is the absence of Pau Gasol, who was a free agent and signed with Chicago. D'Antoni and Gasol often clashed but I believe letting him go was another in a series of Laker mistakes.


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