Los Angeles Lakers News and Updates – Byron Scott Continues to Set Kobe Bryant, Lakers Up for Failure
- Sign up to receive the lastest news from LATINONE
Few coaches can tame the Black Mamba. Mike Brown couldn't do it. Neither could Mike D'Antoni, whose resignation following the 2013-14 season prompted Kobe Bryant to say he honestly "didn't care" for the coach's departure. D'Antoni was, after all, who Bryant reportedly idolized growing up in Italy.
With the sure-fire hall of famer's career reaching its turbulent end soon than later, and the Los Angeles Lakers tepidly rebuilding around the ageing star, what can first-year head coach Byron Scott do to keep Bryant, the Lakers' locker room, and the franchise's front office happy? What he's done to this point is nothing short of disastrous.
There was a time when Bryant could get his way among head coaching candidates. He could sway opinions, pull strings, and even demand change based solely on his business acumen. Never mind the five championships, 16 All-Star game appearances, and multiple scoring titles. Kobe is a brand, and has been for the better part of two decades.
Phil Jackson's retirement three years ago, and Bryant' futile attempt to bring him back last spring, signaled a crack within the superstar's clout. Who could blame team executives for looking elsewhere? Among Jackson's rumored demands were a stake in ownership, travel restrictions, and a contract somewhere near $10 million a year. D'Antoni was offered $4 million.
Scott, for his part, is in the first of a four-year, $17 million contract with the club, who hold a team option on the final year. If Scott wants that team option to kick in, if he really wants prestige to return to Laker Land, he can't give in to Kobe's every demand.
In the preseason, the Lakers focused on setting Bryant up along the baseline so he would place less wear-and-tear on his 36-year-old limbs. Most of his work would come in the mid-post where he would presumably get more open looks. The short-lived plan has Kobe averaging 35.6 minutes per game and a league-high 36.4 usage rating.
Despite ranking among the league's elite scorers, he's making about 37.2 percent of the median 22.4 shots he attempts per night. Without Bryant, the Lakers net rating through 27 games was plus-11.1 points per possession. With him it fell to minus-13.3 per. His 1.41 steals per game lead the team, but a 3.5 turnover rate negates any positives.
Following a 108-101 loss to Sacramento in which he missed 22 of 30 shots, Scott finally approached Bryant about taking time off.
"Before I even said, 'I would like for you to sit out a couple of games,' I had to always go back to, 'You know how much I love you, you know how much I care for you, you know I've always got your best interests at heart," Scott said in speaking with the L.A. Times. "Then I had to hit him with, 'I think you need to sit down a couple of games."
Bryant's ailments included sore knees, sore Achilles' tendons, and a tight back. Any other coach on any other team would have sat their player down weeks earlier, if anything purely for medical reasons. Two years ago, San Antonio Spurs' head coach Gregg Popovich once listed 35-year-old Tim Duncan as "DND-OLD." "DND" means "Did Not Dress." "OLD" signified the 1,097 games Duncan had played, nearly 150 fewer than Bryant at the same age.
If a week without Bryant has taught the Lakers anything it's that they aren't necessarily missing Bryant's locker room presence. Or his defense. What they miss is his playmaking ability.
Aside from a Christmas Day loss to Chicago, they shocked Pacific Division-leading Golden State before losing a narrow 102-98 decision in Dallas. Pinpoint shooting earlier in the week was nonexistent against the Mavericks on Friday.
Nick Young was 5-of-16 from the field, and Jeremy Lin made just 2 of 8 attempts. All three frontcourt starters had double-doubles, including Wesley Johnson who went 3-for-14 shooting.
Sure, one could blame Young and Lin's atrocious shooting, or even the fact that Bryant isn't manning the offense, but what it really comes down to is Scott's game plan.
From Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com:
I asked Lakers coach Byron Scott about his philosophy on 3-pointers. "I don't believe it wins championships. (It) gets you to the playoffs."
— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) October 17, 2014
Later on, Holmes noted that seven of the last eight NBA champions have led all playoff teams in 3-point attempts. The Lakers make 34.6 percent of their 18.6 attempts from three-point land.
The problem for Los Angeles is finding consistency. Rajon Rondo exposed the team's weaknesses, scoring 21 points in Friday night's win. The Lakers' defense looked disheveled, their offense too dependent on Johnson, Jordan Hill, and Carlos Boozer, each who shouldn't have to be relied upon for double-digit scoring nights.
Bryant's expected return Sunday won't do anything to improve that. Not in the long-term anyway. He and Scott will preach about limited minutes and how Bryant needs to take fewer shots, but that only lasts as long as Kobe's temper. It makes Scott ineffective. It keeps the Lakers in the Western Conference cellar. Most of all, it jeopardizes growth.
"The thing that I was so happy about, the first time I brought it up to him, he just said, 'Coach, whatever you want to do, I'm with you 110%," Scott said. "And that made me feel good because I knew how competitive he is and for him to trust me like that, it just let me know that our relationship is as strong as it's ever been."
A strong relationship with a single player doesn't lead to wins. The Lakers are in rebuilding mode and have a protected top five draft pick in 2015, along with top three protected picks in 2016 and 2017. Lin and Steve Nash's contracts are coming off the books this summer while Young and injured power forward are locked up for the next four years. Maybe it's time Scott builds a winning strategy around the Lakers' future rather than its past.
Bryant will be gone within the next two years and, if Scott doesn't stop and look around, he will too.
- Sign up to receive the lastest news from LATINONE