Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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Byron Scott

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The once-promising preseason campaign of the Los Angeles Lakers has gotten off to a rocky start.  What began as a year full of hope and optimism has quickly regressed into a harsh reality as injuries and a slow start quickly popped the proverbial bubble.

A preseason opening win over the Denver Nuggets was followed up by blowout losses to the Golden State Warriors (twice) and the Utah Jazz, though LA was able to get a resounding come-from-behind win over Utah in their next matchup. With over a week to go before the regular season starts, here are three points to take note of as the team moves forward.

1. The (lack of) three-pointers.

The style of the play that Byron Scott has implemented is a stark contrast from last season.  Under Mike D’Antoni, the Lakers last averaged 24.8 three-point shot attempts per game while training 38.1% of them. Those marks ranked 6th and 3rd in the league, respectively. Scott has made it known that he has a disdain for three-pointers and wants the team only attempting only 12-15 shots from long range per game as a team.

The problem is, the shots that they’ve attempted have been missing their mark.  They’ve shot the lowest number of threes (42), made the lowest (10), which has put them in the cellar in terms of shooting percentage (23.8%).  Went went 1-19 in one stretch, which included two games where they went 0-8. Without a threat from the outside, this inability to space the floor won’t give the team space inside to post up and attack the rim.

2. Health.

After leading the league in games missed due to injury last year with 319, the madness just doesn’t stop. Before even playing a single game, Nick Young went down with a thumb injury and will be out for around at least six more weeks.  Steve Nash’s nerve problems resurfaced and it looks a walk on a tight rope when it comes to dealing with his injuries.

In addition, Jeremy Lin, Ryan Kelly, Jordan Clarkson, and Xavier Henry are all recovering from various ailments.  As a result, Byron Scott’s rotation hasn’t been what he envisioned before the year, and it’s shown with their play.  Ronnie Price has been the starting point guard, and camp invitees Wayne Ellington and Roscoe Smith have both seen extended minutes on the floor.  The bright side, at least it’s still early, and one can only hope that the injury bug only sticks around for the preseason.

3. Kobe Bryant.

The hope that fans cling onto is that Kobe Bryant looks, well, like Kobe Bryant.  While he hasn’t shot the ball efficiently, only making 37% of his shots en route to 17.4 points per game, he’s been moving extremely well.  While lacking the familiar explosiveness to the rim that he’s demonstrated his entire career, you wouldn’t know that he’s someone coming off two major injuries in the past year.  With more games under his belt, the offense will come with time.

While the blowout losses painted a momentarily bleak future for the Lakers, the truth is that there’s no reason to panic just yet.  As time goes on and the team gets its rotation players back, there will be more fluidity and consistency to their game.  And that feeling of hope and optimism that was present on media day will be back again.

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Image: J. Alexander Diaz/Lakers.com

It remains to be seen if the Lakers will be a playoff contender this season, but if anything, it will surely be the best conditioned team in the league if day one of training camp is any indication.

On Tuesday, the Lakers held its first practice of the new season, getting a fresh start under new head coach Byron Scott, who gave the team a taste of what to expect under his watch.

“I want to be a great conditioned team. That’s the bottom line,” said Scott. “The thing that I told our guys, ‘We’re going to lose some games this year, but it’s not going to be because the other team is in better shape.”

Running was undoubtedly the word of the day as players went through conditioning drills throughout practice and finishing the day running suicides, leaving players, both veterans and rookies, bent over at the waist trying to catch their breath. At the very end, Nick Young tiredly took a seat under the basket, eventually asking rookie Jordan Clarkson to help him to his feet.

Kobe Bryant made his much anticipated return to the court, participating in an official practice for the first time since last December. According to Scott, Kobe went through three quarters of the practice before being asked to shut it down, despite Kobe’s wishes of wanting to continue.

“He wanted to go more, but right now it’s just a progression of going a little bit a day,” said Scott.

Despite Kobe sitting out the final 30 to 40 minutes of practice, the 36-year old admitted the running was more than he had experienced in his career.

“It’s probably the most running I’ve ever done in an NBA practice,” said Kobe. “Actually it is, for sure. I’ve never run this much.”

The good news for Lakers fans is despite the extra work, Kobe said he felt like himself and that the injuries are in the past. He understands that at an older age, he must monitor his activity level more closely in practice, in order to “have something left in the tank every single day.”

Defense was another focal point on the first day, which should not come as a surprise as Scott made it known in interviews that Lakers basketball must start on that end of the floor. The conditioning and defense are things that go hand in hand, according to Kobe.

“Running and conditioning, that’s the biggest part,” said Kobe. “Everybody wants to play defense, but when you’re not conditioned to play defense, you go back to your natural instinct which is to play offense first.”

On Wednesday, the Lakers will begin two-a-days which will include a scrimmage with game officials. Both Kobe and Steve Nash are expected to practice in the morning session, but not later in the day. Scott said Kobe would play in all eight preseason games, to get rid of the rust after playing in only six games last season.

The first preseason game will be Tuesday Oct. 6 in San Diego at Valley View Casino Center when they take on the Denver Nuggets.

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Kobe Bryant | Steve Nash
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Training camp is on the horizon, and the Los Angeles Lakers are looking to move forward from the worst season in franchise history. The past year filled with moments that fans would soon forget, from Kobe Bryant’s short-lived return, Pau Gasol horribly miscast in Mike D’Antoni’s system, to a litany of injuries that dismantled the team. It was one of the most frustrating times to be a Lakers fan.

Gasol has since departed to Chicago, and after failing to land Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James this summer, not many are pinning their title hopes on the NBA’s glamor franchise.

But what the team does have is a cast of characters with something to prove.

First, head coach Byron Scott. The coaching game has seen him experience both the good and bad. He took the then-New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, and won Coach of the Year in 2008 with the then-New Orleans Hornets. On the other hand, he has been fired three times, twice in the middle of the season. Reports of players tuning him out and quitting on him have surfaced. His latest tenure in Cleveland was not something to marvel at.

In LA, he inherits a team with no real expectations. Experts do not think this team is making the playoffs.   With that comes the opportunity to turn heads. His implementation of the Princeton offense may bring memories of the disaster with Mike Brown, but they are not the same kind of coach. A legend of Showtime back in the 1980s, he is well-liked among his Laker peers, has a certain rapport with the fan base, and is a mentor to Kobe. A respected voice in the locker room, Scott brings in an innovative defensive philosophy, something sorely lacking last season.

Next is Jeremy Lin. Gone are the days of Linsanity. The buzz created by his meteoric rise in New York quickly dissipated by the time his career with the Houston Rockets started. From the three-year, $25 million backloaded contract he signed, to losing his starting job, to having his jersey number used in promotional posters for Carmelo Anthony, it has been a downward trajectory for someone looking to be on his way up. Discarded, he was traded away by the Rockets along with two draft picks to the Lakers in a throwaway trade to clear cap space in the hopes of landing Chris Bosh.

With change comes a fresh start. No longer pressured to live up to the hype, Lin has an opportunity to have the best year of his career. An efficient three-point shooter, he will have more open looks with defenses focused towards Kobe. With Steve Nash still on the team, Lin has the chance to pick the brain of one of the smartest and craftiest point guards in the history of the game. He will see angles and perspectives that he probably never thought of. The best is yet to come.

Lastly, there is Kobe. While no one has doubted the success in his career, the same cannot be said about his immediate future.

Spending the rest of the season rehabilitating and strengthening his body, critics have come out to feast. Contract is too large. Zero trade value. Will not be the same player. The Lakers are not going anywhere. At 36 years of age, Bryant cannot lead the Lakers as an offensive threat any longer. Ranked outside of the top ten in ESPN’s player-by-position rankings. The rumblings just keep going on and on.

The truth is, Bryant has overcome critics his entire career. From being too young, too brash, too selfish, and too cocky, he has transformed into one of the greatest players of our generation. Who is to say he will not compete and prove he still belongs in discussion among the best players today?

The story does not end there. The team is full of misfits who have and already are being written off. Nash is in his final year, but wants to show that he can contribute one last time. Carlos Boozer was amnestied by the Bulls as a cost-cutting move after the worst season of his career, but is still a capable big man in the league. Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson, lottery pick busts, flourished with the Lakers last season and their returns injects youth and energy to this team. Nick Young, last season’s lone bright spot, is back and out to prove he is not a one trick pony but a capable Sixth Man.

2014-15 will be different. There is a different energy around this team. A fresh start for everybody from management, players, all the way down the average Lakers fan. The opportunity to watch this team grow is exciting, and it is going to be a fun ride.

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Photo: ESPN.com

With one of the most forgettable seasons in franchise history behind them, the Los Angeles Lakers approach the upcoming NBA season with tremendous optimism and confidence. Stinging from an injury plagued 2013-14 campaign and a complete breakdown of trust within the team, the Lakers aim to return the supremacy of Hollywood back to the purple and gold. With Kobe Bryant returning this season, there is no reason why the team would not be able to make the playoffs come April.

As fans though, why should we believe them? Why should we trust in a team full of turmoil? Why should we believe that the team can still be successful despite the loss of a key piece of the 2009 and 2010 Championships?

The answer starts at the top. With critics around the league pointing the blame of the past season on Jim Buss, management has sought to make better decisions for the team moving forward. Still reeling from the loss of Dwight Howard and the failed Mike D’Antoni experiment, this summer has given everyone the indication that the Lakers are headed for a better year.

With the hiring of coach Byron Scott, the Lakers have brought in a man with extreme mental toughness and character. His dedication and work ethic, both on the offensive and defensive end, will certainly be a big factor moving forward. Adding to this, his relationship with Kobe Bryant will be important in determining the success that the team can ultimately gain. By understanding Bryant’s strengths and weaknesses, he may be able to maximize his skills to compliment his teammates. His veteran leadership and understanding of the Laker culture will help them gain an identity.

Secondly, one cannot deny the talent that the team will be bringing in for next season. Despite the losses of Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks, the team will still be competitive despite the lack of a superstar, outside of Bryant. Guys like Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and Jeremy Lin will surely be productive and can be depended on for significant contributions. They will also have the services of rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, which will surely bolster the Lakers’ attack. Once everyone gains an understanding of Scott’s system, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

That being said, the most important reason why the Lakers will be successful is pride. Each member of the team, from the coaching staff all the way to the last guy on the bench, knows how big of a deal it is to don the purple and gold. Players like Nick Young have expressed how proud they are of being able to wear the jersey of the franchise with the most wins in NBA history. With so much doubt from people around the league, the team will be playing with a chip on their shoulder to prove the world and naysayers wrong.

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(Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

Byron Scott’s hiring as Lakers head coach is not only a homecoming for the franchise he once played for, but also for the city he grew up in and is already doing his part to give back to the community.

On Tuesday, Scott announced his role as a mentor at Centennial High School’s Male Academy, an intervention program for the school’s ninth and tenth grade students. During the school year, Scott will be part of the program to mentor the young men while also taking part in motivational discussions.

Scott attended Morningside High School in Inglewood, which is six miles away from Centennial in Compton.

In his introduction at the high school, Scott’s main focus was to tell the students to focus on their education more so than athletic aspirations.

Lakers reporter Mike Trudell said Scott asked how many students believed they would become professional athletes, with many hands going up.

“You have a better opportunity to be the next (President) Obama than the next LeBron,” said Scott.

The response was not in any way to discourage the students from chasing their dreams, but to drive home the point that getting their degree and education is essential.

The press conference did not come without basketball as students were able to ask questions of their own and Scott was asked by a student as to who would be starting for him once the season came around, which resulted in an interesting response from the new head coach.

“Other than Kobe, it’s up for grabs.”

It is no surprise that Kobe is penciled in as a starter, but with acquisitions such as Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin, to say every position other than shooting guard is open was not the answer some would expect. Although it could very well mean Scott is promoting competition as training camp opens in the coming weeks, giving legitimate shots for players like lottery pick Julius Randle to prove their worth.

As Scott begins his new tenure as head coach for the purple and gold, it is great to see him going back to his roots and giving back to the city he loves by putting effort into making a difference in the lives of the younger generation.

In the past four years, the Male Academy at Centennial High School has helped students improve attendance rates, disciplinary issues and academic performance. It is also credited for increasing graduation rates by 10 percent. The previous mentor was former NFL quarterback Vince Evans, who graduated from USC, and played for the Chicago Bears as well as the Los Angeles Raiders.

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Image Credit: Juan Ocampo

It may have been months in the making but the Lakers officially introduced Byron Scott as its new head coach at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo on Tuesday.

“The one thing I will say is that this has been a dream of mine for so long,” said Scott, who enjoyed 11 seasons with the purple and gold. “It’s a dream come true to be here sitting and talking to you guys today and be introduced as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.”

Since Mike D’Antoni’s resignation in April, the discussion as to who would be the next coach always circled back to Scott, who served as an analyst on Time Warner Cable SportsNet this past year.

After uncertainty the past three years with D’Antoni and Mike Brown, the hiring of Scott looks to bring stability to a franchise that desperately needs it. While stability is needed, the expectations remain the same, something that Scott made sure to acknowledge in his opening statements.

“This organization is all about championships. Period. We don’t look at Western Conference finals, Western Conference championships,” said Scott. “We look at championships.”

The press conference got off to a memorable start as Scott’s former teammates, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jamaal Wilkes came to support their friend.

“This is a great day for all former Lakers as well as Laker fans all over the world,” said Magic. “We’re just excited for what Byron will bring to the table and get back to playing Laker basketball… Again, congratulations to the Laker organization. You chose the right guy.”

One of the other selling points other than Scott’s history with the franchise is that of his relationship with Kobe Bryant, who had issues with his two previous head coaches.

“Great relationship. I mean we get a long extremely well. We talk a lot. We text each other a lot during the season and obviously during the off-season,” said Scott, who was Kobe’s mentor during his rookie season in 1996. “I’m looking forward to coaching Kobe. I know his drive, and I know his will and determination. I think we’re on the same page as far as how we think about this game and how it should be played.”

While this is Scott’s ‘dream job’, many do not consider the roster as currently constructed a playoff team, but the new head coach is happy with his upcoming collection of players.

“I just was looking at all the moves that Jim [Buss] and Mitch [Kupchak] were making. When we talked, they would ask me my opinion, and I would give it to them. And like I said, I think they did a great job of putting this roster together,” said Scott.

“I’m excited to work with these guys on the floor too, and I think you’re going to have a few of these guys on this roster that have a chip on their shoulder, which to me is a very good thing, and you have a lot of people real down on us right now, and I think that’s something that can drive us going through the season.”

As the Lakers now move forward, trying to establish an identity for the years to come, it will be a challenge for Scott but for someone that understands expectations of the franchise and its fans; he is definitely the right choice at the moment for this team.  But what can the fans expect out the Lakers led by Scott?

“Play hard every single night, and we’ll come ready to defend.”

And after last season’s 27-55 performance, even that small promise from Scott is the step in the right direction.

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Byron Scott
Image: Chris Chambers | Getty Images

The search for the next coach of the Los Angeles Lakers became a little more clearer on Friday as it was reported by LA Times Lakers beat writer Mike Bresnahan that the team will narrow its search to coaches with previous NBA experience:

The Lakers’ decision to go with an experienced NBA coach also officially ends their brief thought of interviewing a college coach. The team was open to many scenarios after Mike D’Antoni resigned in April, including talking to Roy Williams and John Calipari, but a college coach is no longer an option.

As Bresnahan writes, that decision eliminates the idea of the Lakers hiring a college coach, but also takes Derek Fisher out of consideration for the vacancy.

The candidates with experience who have interviewed so far are: Byron Scott, Lionel Hollins, Mike Dunleavy, Alvin Gentry, George Karl, and Kurt Rambis.

With the team looking to play a more half-court system opposed to the up-tempo style that was played under Mike D’Antoni, one has to think that Scott and Hollins are likely choices moving forward in the process.

Bresnahan goes on to say:

The Lakers currently have no interviews scheduled for the early part of next week and there is only a 50-50 chance they hire a coach by the June 26 draft, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The Lakers said from the beginning of the process that there was no rush in selecting a new coach but with free agency beginning on July 1st, having a coach in place would help give the team a sense of direction in the off-season.

It is also safe to assume that any coach would like input on who the Lakers select at #7 in the NBA Draft, if they do in fact plan on keeping the pick.

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Lionel Hollins
Image: Kevin C. Cox | Getty Images

In case you missed it, the Los Angeles Lakers have been working meticulously in their head coaching search after learning their draft position. As of Last week ,they interviewed two coaches who have previous good history with the team; Mike Dunleavy Sr. and Byron Scott. On Tuesday they are set to interview former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins.

The first candidate the Lakers interviewed was Mike Dunleavy Sr. last Sunday. He has previous history with the team as he was the Lakers head coach for the seasons of 1990 through 1992 (with an overall record, including playoffs, of 124-73), succeeding then coach Pat Riley. In 1991 the Dunleavy led team reached the NBA Finals beating the Portland Trailblazers, but ultimately losing to the Chicago Bulls.

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Dunleavy also knows what is at stake for the Lakers as his most recent coaching position in the league was with the LA Clippers. Due to that, Dunleavy understands the dynamic of being overshadowed by the other LA team and trying to find ways to claim the primer position. The Clippers teams he coached then had very similar seasons to last seasons Lakers team yet it has been four seasons since he coached last.

Scott, who interviewed with the team last Tuesday per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, believes that he is the “perfect guy” for this job.

“I don’t feel I’m a very arrogant guy, but I feel like I am the perfect guy for this job,” Scott told the “Max & Marcellus” show on ESPNLA 710 Radio on Thursday. “I got a great relationship with Kobe. I know the team, know the roster. I watched them all season long and I just think it would be a great fit.”

“Obviously, if I get the job, the first conversation I have is with Kobe [Bryant],” said Scott, who spent last season as an analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet, the Lakers’ television partner. “We have to talk about the future of the Los Angeles Lakers. We have to also talk about which type of direction we’ll be taking and also talk about the type of game that he’s going to be playing because he’s going to have to change his game a little bit, and I think he knows that.

“We got to sit down and talk about the minutes and things like that. We just got to come to an agreement. But he knows me. I’m an old-school type guy. I’m an old-school type guy and I want him to understand that and I think he does understand that…But I think the biggest thing is, No. 1, I respect the hell out of Kobe and I think he respects me. That’s the first hurdle we got to get past, and then other things, we’ll be able to solve all those little issues.”

Scott continued the conversation by speaking on what his defensive approach would be with the team. Last season’s Lakers team finished 29th in opponents points per game, they undoubtedly need to strengthen the defensive side of the ball before next season begins. Scott, a valuable player for three Lakers championship teams on the offensive end but better known for his defense, has an idea of what needs to be done to fix the team’s defensive woes.

Byron Scott
Image: Chris Chambers | Getty Images

“That’s what I was taught when I came to the Lakers, that defense wins championships,” said Scott, who was coached by Pat Riley in L.A. “I think Kobe knows that. I think Pau [Gasol] knows that, because they won championships with that formula. And I think that’s the first thing we got to get better at, the defensive part of basketball. Then we got to get better at the rebounding. So, it’s something that we would do on a day-to-day basis. You got to work on that every day, and it has to be a team’s identity and a staple.”

He concluded with discussing how the Lakers don’t need to think that rebuilding will be a three or four year process.  As we all know, the Lakers have a certain allure to them that can fast track any rebuilding phase.

“Obviously there are a lot of holes to fill, but unlike a lot of people who think this is a three-, four-year process, I really don’t think so,” Scott said. “Again, this is one of the best organizations in basketball. Mitch has done a fantastic job, and I think Jim really has a good idea of where they want to go and what direction they want to head in. So I don’t think it’s going to take three or four years. I think it might take a couple of years at the most to get right back where they need to be.”

The last, and most, recent news of on the organization’s coaching search broke yesterday. Yahoo Sports! Adrian Wojnarowaski tweeted that the Lakers will meet with former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins on Tuesday.

Hollins, an NBA champion with the Trailblazers in 1977, All-Star in 1978, All Defensive First Team in 1978 and Second in 1979, is known league wide for his team’s stifling defense. While head coach of the Grizzlies, Hollins led his teams to franchise high winning percentage, playoff home court advantage for the first time in team history, and a franchise record 56 wins. Hollins could become the best option out of the three candidates as his previous success can translate with the Lakers right away since majority of the team will have played against a former team of his.

Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of May 25-31, over their 66-year history.

May 26, 2002

Robert Horry picked up a loose ball and swished a three-pointer with 0.6 seconds remaining in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals to give the Lakers a 100-99 victory over the Sacramento Kings. Behind Horry’s heroic shot and 27 points from Shaquille O’Neal, Los Angeles rallied back from a 24-point deficit to win the game. The Lakers eventually won the series in seven games over the upstart Kings and advanced to the NBA Finals, where they swept the New Jersey Nets to clinch their third consecutive NBA title.

May 27, 2010

Ron Artest redeemed himself after shooting a needless three-pointer instead of eating the clock when he put back Kobe Bryant’s airball at the buzzer to give the Lakers a 103-101 victory over the Suns in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. Behind Artest’s game-winner, as well as 30 points and 11 rebounds from Kobe Bryant, the Lakers took a three games to two series advantage. Los Angeles went on to defeat the Suns in six games and advance to the NBA Finals, where they defeated the Celtics in seven games to capture their second consecutive NBA championship.

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May 28, 1989

The Lakers completed a four-game sweep of the Phoenix Suns with a 122-117 victory in the Western Conference Finals behind 35 points from Byron Scott. This was the third consecutive series sweep for Los Angeles and their 11th straight win in the 1989 playoffs. This would be their last win of the season, however, as the Lakers went on to be swept by the Pistons in the NBA Finals.

May 30, 1985

The Lakers bounced back after a crushing 148-114 loss to Boston in Game 1 of the NBA Finals and defeated the Celtics 109-102 in Game 2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 30 points and collected 17 rebounds in the win. Los Angeles won the series in six games and became the first-ever visiting team to celebrate an NBA title in the Boston Garden.

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Byron Scott
Image: Chris Chambers | Getty Images

Name: Byron Scott

Career Coaching Record: Regular Season: 416-521 (.444), Playoffs: 33-24 (.579)

Previous Stints: New Jersey Nets (2000-2004), New Orleans Hornets (2004-2009),  Cleveland Cavaliers (2010-2013)

Many fans throughout Laker Nation want former Laker great and current TWC SportsNet commentator Byron Scott to become the next Lakers Head Coach. As of right now, many people believe he is one of the top candidates to replace Mike D’Antoni and seek to bring the Lakers back to prominence. Scott played with the Lakers for 11 of his 14 NBA seasons and has head coaching experience with the New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, and Cleveland Cavaliers. He has led his New Jersey Nets team to 2 straight NBA Finals appearances, once in 2002 where his team ran into the Shaq-Kobe led Lakers, and then vs. San Antonio Spurs in 2003. From all indications, Scott definitely wants to become the next Lakers head coach.

Hit the jump for why Byron Scott would be a good hire for the Lakers.

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“He is arguably the greatest player in the history of the Lakers’ franchise. He is also destroying it from within.” It is simple. It is...