Prior to this year’s NBA offseason, in the eyes of many, two-year coach Mike D’Antoni was as good as gone from the sidelines of the Staples Center. In late April, the prediction became a reality when D’Antoni resigned as coach. Following the coach resigning, it would have made sense for the Lakers to have replaced him prior to the draft or at the very least, the beginning of free agency. Now it is the end of July and despite rumors for over a month that Byron Scott would be offered the head coaching position for the Los Angeles Lakers, that moment has finally become a reality; however, with many free agents gone and a lackluster roster, once negotiations are finalized with the coach, it may be too late to have an improvement over the 2013-2014 season.
Free agents want to know what they are getting into. When signing a contract, a player wants to be prepared in terms of who his teammates will be, who his boss is and what direction a team is headed in. By the Lakers not hiring a coach until a month and a half after free agency signings have begun, it is no surprise that the roster in Los Angeles looks rather bleak. Carmelo Anthony, who was arguably the most coveted free agent, had a chance of joining Kobe Bryant. He declined. Pau Gasol, who would only come back if D’Antoni was no longer part of the team, elected instead to join the Chicago Bulls. Even second-leading scorer Jodie Meeks chose to go to the Detroit Pistons instead of returning to Los Angeles.
Instead, Los Angeles made some last ditch efforts by bringing in Jeremy Lin in a trade from Houston for the rights of Sergei Lischuk. Additionally, Los Angeles had the winning bid on amnestied power forward Carlos Boozer. Elsewhere, the Lakers re-signed last year’s leading scorer Nick Young and second-leading rebounder Jordan Hill. They also signed Julius Randle, Ryan Kelly and Ed Davis. In all, Los Angeles still only has nine players on the roster that also includes the injury-prone Steve Nash and last year’s reserve center Robert Sacre.
Byron Scott, who likely will sign a contract with the Lakers within the next day or so, will need all the luck in the world to transform a team that finished 27-55, with an embarrassing 29th place in points allowed and a 25th placed rpg last season. While it is understandable that the Lakers wanted to be careful in signing a coach after the often-criticized D’Antoni, being the last team to hire a coach at the end of July is likely one of many elements that disabled their ability in pulling in any significant free agents. With only three players under contract going into this offseason (Bryant, Nash and Sacre), this is not the summer Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak envisioned.
Regardless, Scott is likely to be their coach, and while Bryant has stated to be in favor of the move, it is a questionable choice when there were options of George Karl and weeks earlier, Lionel Hollins, still on the table. Scott has had a chaotic coaching career. He started out in New Jersey, where he led the Nets to two NBA Finals that they ultimately lost. Following a very public firing that was rumored to have been put on by his point guard Jason Kidd, he moved on to New Orleans. While Scott was in New Orleans, he did not start well with an 18-64 record in 2004-2005. Three years later he had made them a playoff team along with the help of star point guard Chris Paul. Owners wanted results though and so ownership fired Scott after only nine games during the 2009-2010 season. In 2010, Scott was hired by the Cleveland Cavaliers after Mike Brown had been fired. Considering he coached a team which had just fallen victim to losing LeBron James, his coaching record was not surprisingly abysmal with a 64-166. After three seasons, Scott was fired.
If there is one thing Byron Scott is good at, it is coaching a team with an All-Star point guard. Lin, who currently will be the starting point guard on the Lakers, most likely is not that player. Additionally, Scott has not proven to be the best teacher. His Nets teams, as well as his Hornets squads, were full of All-Star talent. The Lakers have Kobe Bryant, but he is the only true All-Star on the team. At that, no one knows for sure the state of a player who used to be the best in the league, after his many injuries. Carlos Boozer used to be an All-Star, but evidenced by his second-worst season of his career, is now on the decline. Nash can barely stay on the floor after playing 15 games last season. As a result, Scott is going to have to teach these guys to play ball, and he is going to have to do it without many choices.
One other aspect to Scott’s coaching style is that he preaches defense. However, he is now coming to a team that was close to dead last in defense last season. Moreover, he has players such as Carlos Boozer and Steve Nash, who have never been great defensive players, along with a plethora of young guns. If what happened in Cleveland is any indication, Scott is going to have a rough time this upcoming season.
Hiring a coach is one of the most pivotal moves a general manager can make. It can, arguably, make or break a team. However, when a team such as the Los Angeles Lakers offered a coaching job to Byron Scott this late into the offseason, it simply may have been too late to explore other options. Players have passed on the team, which seemed to have no direction. As such, Scott has a dangerous road ahead of him this season if he accepts the terms of his recently-offered contract.
Commentary By Simon Mounsey