Showtime returns, at least for one day

July 31, 2014

Jamaal Wilkes (far left), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Byron Scott (center)
Magic Johnson and Mitch Kupchak (far right) at Lakers press conference
Photo by Oliver Petalver

El Segundo, Calif. - Byron Scott's introduction as the new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday had a distinctively nostalgic feel, perhaps in no small part because former “Showtime” teammates and Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jamaal Wilkes were present to show their support.

“This is a great day for all former Lakers and Laker fans all over the world,” declared Magic Johnson, who also noted that several Lakers greats not in attendance wanted to communicate their support for Scott. “We’re excited, we wish we could put on a uniform and help you, but we’re here supporting you and will support you throughout.”

If only those legends could turn the clock back and play again it might be possible to believe that an overnight turnaround for the Lakers was possible. Instead we’ll just have to hope the wisdom and winning influence of Scott and past Lakers greats will, as if by osmosis, slowly seep into the new squad.

“Welcome home B, we’re going to be down there bothering you every night,” joked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

I hope he’s not kidding. His friend will need all of the help he can get.

Still, Scott said all of the right things about returning his former team to glory. “I’m going to do everything in my power to make those guys proud, the Buss family proud, and do everything I can to bring this team back to where we know it should be. “ He even emphasized an old Lakers mantra: “This organization is about championships. Period. We don’t look at Western Conference finals, Western Conference championships. We look at championships.”

Did we learn anything from the press conference about whether the Lakers are on the right track? Here’s a few encouraging and concerning thoughts expressed by the 25th head coach in Lakers History.


1. Byron Scott is unafraid to espouse the philosophy of Lakers exceptionalism.

To him, this is not just an exciting opportunity to work for a prestigious organization, but a dream job. "I'm glad to be back with this organization, which I think is the best in all of sports...I don't think that I can state this any deeper, how I feel about this organization.

That kind of absolute emotional commitment is sure to translate to his players as will his fierce expectation that the Lakers live up to their winning tradition.

Scott also made it clear that he believes winning can be contagious and that a large part of the winning mentality comes from the attitude of the players. “When you lose games, you shouldn't be sitting in the locker room having a good time. It should hurt."”

Scott’s brand of openly challenging the team will be a welcome relief from Mike D’Antoni’s seemingly passive-aggressive approach toward players.

2. Scott consistently emphasized improving the Lakers defense.

“The main thing I have to do right away is establish ourselves as a defensive basketball team."”

Indeed poor defense was the greatest weakness on last year’s team, as the Lakers allowed 109.2 ppg (29th in the NBA) and were last in defensive rebounding.

Scott made it clear that any player who failed to play solid defense would be sitting on the bench quickly. "You're going to miss shots, you're going to make shots. But the one thing you can control every single night is your effort on the defensive end. Guys have to understand that that's what it's going to take and they have to be held accountable for that."

3. In response to a question from the DSH, Scott openly admitted that the Lakers would be playing a lot of one-on-one basketball.

To many coaches, mentioning “one-on-one” basketball is almost taboo, because it suggests a stagnant offense with four players standing around.

But it is actually a good thing that Scott is talking this way because it reveals a pragmatic nature. Taking advantages of mismatches is essential in the NBA, and the championship teams Scott played on excelled at it. Those Lakers never hesitated to repeatedly exploit a mismatch or feed a player who had the hot hand simply to follow some arbitrary offense system. At the end of the day you must let your best players make plays.


1.  Will Kobe be handling the ball too much?

Byron Scott achieved success in previous coaching stints in New Jersey and New Orleans due in large part to the outstanding point guard play of Jason Kidd and Chris Paul, respectively. The DSH asked the new coach whether he felt he could duplicate that success in Los Angeles.

Scott began his answer by asserting that he believes Kobe Bryant is still one of the best players in the NBA and that Kobe could take over some of the point guard responsibilities.

Whether or not Kobe Bryant is still one of the best players in the NBA is yet to be determined. However, the idea of shifting more of the point guard duties to Bryant is questionable for several reasons.

First, Bryant will be 36 years old when the season starts and increasing his ball-handling responsibilities might take a greater toll on his aging legs. That also leads to the second point. Bryant has never been the type of player to push the pace, even in his youth. In fact, he excels most in the half-court game.

Third, whether Bryant is still an All Star or not, we’ve already figured out over his 18-year career that offensively this man is a scorer first and foremost. While he certainly can facilitate for others, it is definitely not what he does best.

Finally, Jeremy Lin hardly flourished while playing alongside ball-dominating guard James Harden in Houston. One would hope that in Los Angeles Lin will have the ball in his hands a lot more and will be given free rein to push the pace.

2. Will the Lakers prioritize effective inside scoring once again?

Considering former coach Mike D’Antoni’s almost open hostility to throwing the ball into the post, and that Scott himself played on 3 NBA championship teams that regularly fed the ball inside to all-time great post players Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy, the DSH was interested in how much he planned to utilize players in the post.

While Scott did acknowledge that his offense was not opposed to dumping the ball inside, he emphasized that low post players had to effectively set screens and be a “hub” for the offense, a place where the ball could move in-and-out quickly.

To be fair, it’s not obvious how many true offensive threats in the paint the Lakers have right now. Still, Scott’s answer leaves it a bit unclear how committed he is to re-establishing the Lakers tradition of having an inside scoring presence (Wilt, Kareem, Shaq, Gasol).

3. Will Julius Randle get enough minutes?

Scott suggested that he didn’t want to put too much pressure on rookie Julius Randle and that Randle would have to outperform the others at his position to earn playing time. On the surface such statements are innocuous.

However, one might wonder if Scott’s “old school” reputation translates into a heavy favoritism for veteran players over young ones. Let's hope that's not the case because Julius Randle needs to be on the floor and develop quickly for the Lakers to improve substantially this season.

Photo by Oliver Petalver


Ignore those who cynically suggest that Byron Scott has been hired for nostalgic reasons alone. Scott is easily as qualified and deserving as any of the other candidates that were considered by the team, and his championship Lakers pedigree rightly puts him over the top.

Unless the Spurs (Popovich), Clippers (Rivers), Mavericks (Carlisle), or Heat (Spoelstra) were about to lose a coach, where else were you going to find someone who has coached in more than one NBA Finals?

Scott is the right man for the job now and can be for the future as well.

Yet the challenge before Scott is daunting to say the least. Scott, an Inglewood native, expressed gratitude toward God for the opportunity to coach the team he grew up loving and then played 11 of his 14 seasons with. But a real miracle will need to take place if the Lakers are able to turn into serious contenders this year.

Nonetheless, the new coach appeared optimistic. “The one thing I told Mitch [Kupchak] and Jim [Buss] at our last meeting was that I thought they put a roster together that will be very competitive.”

Few should doubt Scott’s team will improve upon last season’s debacle. But it’s hard to imagine the Lakers being “very competitive” unless that means something new for a franchise that “only looks at championships.”

By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for

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