Jul 29, 2014; El Segundo, CA, USA; Byron Scott is introduced as Los Angeles Lakers coach at a press conference at Toyota Sports Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers: Can Byron Scott Achieve His Defensive Goals?

When Byron Scott was introduced last week as the newest head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, he had strong words for the roster handed to him by General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

Of course, establishing an offensive set that can fit this odd group of talent is going to be important.  In fact, Scott wants to install a variation of the Princeton Offense, which includes many sets predicated on quick ball movement and motion.

This type of offense Scott wants to implement is supposed to open up multiple cuts to the basket, utilize a strong post player that can draw double teams, and have a great deal of shooting on the outside that can be used for kick-outs.  Los Angeles seems to have all of that intact with the roster, the only questions being if Julius Randle can actually threaten opponents with his post-ups, and if Jordan Hill is going to be able to step out and score from many different areas.

Byron Scott

Apr 11, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill (27) and Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12) chase a loose ball at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

We already know how Carlos Boozer feels about the mid-range jumper — to 19 or 20 feet — and that won’t be an issue.

What Scott tried to emphasize, however, is that the offensive methodology must come second.  Defensive effort and aptness comes first.  That’s how it should be.  That’s the Laker way, according to Showtime Scott.

“They better be ready to play some defense,” is what Scott told Kobe Bryant, who was working out with Wesley Johnson and Nick Young last week.

If there’s one thing Scott should know from watching the Lakers last season, it’s that Swaggy P isn’t responding to that call.  Johnson, on the other hand?  His length and majestic athleticism are enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, and he always competes hard on that end.  Now, he’s not going to be able to defend the best wing players he faces on select nights (LeBron, Durant, etc.), but that’s where we’ll see if Kobe is in the right shape to take on those assignments.  When he returned from the Achilles tear, he wasn’t.  But now, he’s had a full summer worth of getting prepared and being able to work on his cardio.

Scott will have many tough choices to make, but the most important one is at the point guard slot.

If he truly meant his words on focusing on the defensive end, he’ll have to play Jeremy Lin more than 40-year-old Steve Nash, and even start the newcomer.  That sounds a bit hysterical, considering Lin lost his starting job in Houston because he couldn’t defend a soul.  Patrick Beverley took over those duties, and Daryl Morey felt that Lin was worth trading away and limiting his point guard depth.

With Nash being the seasoned veteran and believing in his mind that he’s ready for another long grind, he’ll want to be the starter.  How many guys with Nash’s skill would accept coming off the bench in what’s supposed to be their last season in the league?  Yes, the beaten and battered Nash has claimed this will be his last go-around before retirement.


Scott has to go with the more athletically capable and injury-free point guard, and that’s Lin.  He’s durable, and has played 153 games in the last two seasons with Houston.  That’s just 11 missed games.

Viewing the Rockets last season, you could tell Lin wasn’t able to stay with the quicker, stronger guards on the perimeter.  Players would blow past him, and it would place a heavy burden on Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones to defend the rim.

Lin, Bryant, Young, Boozer, and Jordan Hill is the ideal starting five in many people’s eyes, and even that provides difficulties.  Young has proven that he’s more comfortable coming in as a scorer off the bench, and that’s when he exploded for his 30 and 40 point nights last season.

Seeing how Bryant and Scott have been close friends since 1996, there’s some belief that Kobe will completely buy in to anything Scott preaches in practice.

He’s going to do things the way the coach wants, but he’s also going to give Scott his perspective on what needs to be stressed.  That’s the part of veteran player and veteran coach relationships that needs to be understood, as both can bring their own strategies to the table.

On the defensive end, Jordan Hill is the guy you look at as the focus in this starting lineup.

Very undersized for a center, Hill isn’t a shot-blocker or a middle man that other teams circle on their scouting report.  Nonetheless, he has exactly what Randle owns; a non-stop motor on the glass that will limit second-chance opportunities for other teams.  Seeing more minutes this season with that outrageous $9 million owed to him this season, Hill will be the one relied on when it comes to defense.  Does that work out for Scott?  Maybe to start the year, but not when the guards get drained of energy down the stretch of the season.

For Scott and the Lakers, it all starts and ends with being able to limit penetration.

Byron Scott

January 27, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) controls the ball against the defense of Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Once Kobe, Lin, Xavier Henry, and Jordan Clarkson get winded or faced with quicker competition, it’s putting too much strain on the frontcourt when you have a Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose blazing to the middle.  The most you can do is foul in majority of those scenarios.

Scott coached the New Jersey Nets to league-leading defensive ratings in 2001-02 and 2002-03, holding opponents to under 100 points per 100 possessions.  In this league, that’s what’s necessary to build a championship team.

Unfortunately, I’m a firm believer that you can’t place a coach on a roster and expect him to give you the same results.  The NBA is about the players, not the coaches.  At the end of the day, those guys have to get out on the court and actually execute what you preach.

Scott will experience this once November is here, and see that the Western Conference is tougher to defend that it was when he coached Chris Paul and the Hornets.  In reality, it’s nearly impossible to stop the attacks.  This conference is at an all-time high, and it’s to the dismay of these Lakers.

Shane Young is an NBA credentialed writer for 8 Points, 9 Seconds and HoopsHabit.com. For all Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, or general NBA coverage, follow @YoungNBA and @HoopsHabit on Twitter.




Tags: Byron Scott Defense Jeremy Lin Jordan Hill Kobe Bryant Lakers Defense Los Angeles Lakers

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