The search for a head coach is expediting for the Los Angeles Lakers, but likely won’t be finalized before June’s NBA Draft.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak has been a public voice for the last two weeks, offering his respected opinions on Kobe Bryant‘s progress, and what type of head coach is necessary for this rebuilding franchise.
The two head coaches have been highly considered for the job, and both have past ties to the Lakers.
Dunleavy, who coached the Clippers from 2003-2010, only found himself in the playoffs once during that horrific period with the “little brother” in Los Angeles. Although he had his coaching moments with the Lakers too — getting the team to the 1991 NBA Finals with Magic Johnson — Dunleavy is the unpopular choice.
Scott, who played for the Lakers from 1983-93, then in 1996-97, has the deepest roots when it comes to being with the purple and gold. He’s also been the desired guy all along, with the late Dr. Jerry Buss wanting to hire him over Mike Brown in 2011. Scott has already accepted Cleveland’s offer at the time.
Coaching Chris Paul in New Orleans for five seasons, Scott knows what it’s like to be with a competitive, edgy superstar. That’s what he’ll have on hand if he gets the nod, with Bryant returning on opening night after rehabbing the fractured knee.
In Bryant’s first season with the Lakers coming out of high school, Scott was one of many mentors for the young, confident kid from Philadelphia. Scott has always had a charismatic feel to him as a coach, and he shares the same winning attitude that Bryant holds for his last two years under contract.
Scott, after being interviewed by the Lakers on Thursday, told ESPN 710 just why he’s intrigued with the job opening.
“To say the least, I thought it was a perfect fit,” Scott said. “I don’t know how most people feel. I don’t feel I’m a very arrogant guy, but I think I am the perfect guy for the job. I got a great relationship with Kobe. I know the team, know the roster, watched them all season long, and I just think it will be a great fit.”
There’s only one issue with that, Scott. The fact that only four players are under contract this season for the Lakers — Bryant, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre, Kendall Marshall — means that you really can’t predict what’s in store for the team moving forward. Kupchak is still uncertain if Nick Young will opt-out of his player option, unsure if Nash will decide to hang it up, and unclear of many role playing pieces moving forward.
Ryan Kelly‘s young career is still up in the air with Los Angeles, and then there’s the Pau Gasol situation. The way Gasol is sounding about this upcoming free agency period, it appears as if teams are going to chase him, and he’ll have his own version of “The Decision.”
The fact is, nobody on this planet knows the future for this illustrious franchise. Not even the owner, or general manager. Production levels out of their best player, 19-year superstar isn’t even certain. If that’s even a question mark, how do you plan accordingly for the upcoming years?
You don’t. You have to experiment with things, sign the right pieces in free agency (Hey, Luol Deng …. ) and hope for the best.
That’s where the Lakers run into problems. Bryant has the patience of a five-year-old in a toy store. He needs to have it all, and he needs it all right now.
Through all the irresolution and uncertainty within the Lakers, there’s a couple things about Byron Scott that we know to be true.
He preached and praised the slower, more traditional style of basketball during his tenure with New Orleans (2004-2009), and he’s the superlative option that will help Bryant understand he has to tweak his play style. The five-time champion isn’t getting any younger, and he’d be more likely to jump on board with any reduction in minutes Scott needed.
“He’s gonna have to change his game a little bit and he knows that,” Scott also told ESPN 710. “He knows me and I’m an old-school type of guy”
For Bryant, that likely means having more sets playing off the ball, unless he proves his knee and Achilles injuries haven’t slowed him down one bit. Keep in mind, this six-month training program Bryant is enduring is supposed to help him re-develop the speed and quickness he lost after sitting out nearly all year.
With Chris Paul and the Hornets, Scott collected “pace” ratings that hovered near the bottom of the league:
Typically, the top title contenders play at a faster, speedier rate. However, when you look at how your personnel is set and realize your top two players could 36 and 34 years old (if Gasol returns), you have to adjust the offense and play with what works. That’s what D’Antoni didn’t do in 2012-13, as he preached the run-and-gun offense with Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Pau, eventually running the team into the ground. Additionally, he played Bryant for an absurd amount of minutes, which may have been a direct cause to the Achilles tear. Nobody is fully putting that blame on D’Antoni, though.
During Scott’s nightmare with the Cleveland Cavaliers, people held Scott too accountable for the disastrous results. The team — and city — was jump starting the post-LeBron era after he darted for Miami. In his first season with Cleveland (19-63 record), the team used 24 different starting lineups and eventually took the biggest drop in wins this league has seen. It was the year before Kyrie Irving arrived, and there was nothing Scott could do.
The fact that the next season with Cleveland (2011-12) could be Scott’s fault is also laughable. Irving entered the league having only played 11 games at the collegiate level, and was being asked to take over the superstar role immediately? In a rebuilding franchise with a lineup of Omri Casspi, Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker, and Anderson Varejao? Sorry, not the head coach’s fault.
How about the next season, 2012-13? Another horrid year (24-58), and it’s the only one that could have given Scott a portion of the blame. With the youth of Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, and Dion Waiters joining Irving, maybe a little more was expected from Cleveland, especially in the (L)Eastern Conference. Although, chemistry has never flowed within this group of talent, even under Mike Brown this past season. When will we ever stop pointing to the coach after every single mishap? It’s the most irritating aspect of professional sports.
For the Lakers, they’re not nearly in as bad of a spot Cleveland was when LeBron bolted, but it’s still a precarious situation for a coach. Many experiments will have to be made, and the next coach will have to be on board with the team management, especially when it comes to bringing in talent through the draft and free agency.
For Bryant’s last two seasons, their chances at grabbing Kevin Love in a future free agency situation, and a solution for the short-term, Scott may be the way to go if you’re the Lakers.