Byron Scott returns to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won three championships as a player, as the team’s new head coach with a distinct game plan on how the team will play this season.
Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant told Scott via text messages that he has been working out with young players Nick Young and Wesley Johnson. Scott was pleased with that, but added in a text: They “better be ready to play some defense.”
Consider that was something seemingly on the backburner under former coach Mike D’Antoni, it makes sense Scott would start by trying to revamp a once-dominant franchise. The Lakers were worse than 20th in defense during all of D’Antoni’s time in L.A., and last year the team was the third-worst on that end of the court.
Scott knows better than most that defense was the key to the Lakers’ titles. Their flair on offense garnered attention, but they toughed it out when they had to make a stop. He said he expects Bryant to be the leader in all the Lakers do, including fostering a fighting mentality.
“As a coach you have guys that police each other. This time you really have just Kobe [to do that],” Scott said. “Steve Nash, I love him, he’s probably one of the nicest people I’ve been around. But he’s not that ass-kicking type of guy.
“You always need one of those type of guys. In this situation, where it’s just Kobe — who really understands what it means to be a Laker — and myself, who understands what it means to be a Laker — you’ve got two guys coming from two different perspectives, but delivering the same message. That’s important. That’s important for Swaggy P (Young) and Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly who need to understand what it means to put that purple and gold on.
“Kobe understands that. It’s special when you put that uniform on. You’ve got to play with that type of pride because you’ve got a lot of Lakers from the past that are looking at you and wanting you to uphold the Laker brand and the name, and the only way to do that is by winning. Not winning games but winning championships, and that’s what we’re going to get back to doing.”
It would help if they had more talent, too. They added veterans Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer. The rest of the roster is full of young players with potential.
“I’ve always been an underdog,” Scott said. “Me making it from high school to college and college to the pros, playing with the great players I did and winning championships, I kind of relish this role.
“I relished the role when we were always favored, too. That made us focused every single night because we knew we couldn’t take a night off. This role, going in and trying to be a spoiler, it’s something we’ll enjoy for a little while, and then we’ll be back to people chasing us again.
“It’s going to take some time, but I have all the confidence in the world in [general manager] Mitch [Kupchak] and [owner and head of basketball operations] Jim [Buss]. I sat down with them a number of times and heard their plan, and I loved it
“They know what they’re doing. We’re going to head in the right direction. All I have to do is go out there and make sure these guys are held accountable and doing what they’re supposed to do. If they do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”