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.
After a miserable 2013-14 season that led to an unusually long off-season, we finally have something to look forward to. Yesterday, the NBA released the 2014-2015 regular season schedule. After saying goodbye to Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks, and Chris Kaman (among others) the Lakers will begin the season with many fresh faces. Over the Summer, the Lakers added veterans Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, and Ed Davis along with rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. They will join returning Lakers Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre, and Nick Young. Oh, and I forgot, after only playing 6 games last season, Kobe Bryant will be hungry and healthy to start the season. A sight that Laker fans sorely missed.
With training camp just around the corner… Here is a preview of the 2014-2015 Lakers Regular Season Schedule:
In 1 of only 3 games on opening night, the Lakers will begin their season at home against Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets. After sitting out all but 6 games last season, this will mark the first time Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard face each other since Howard’s departure 2 summers ago. It will also mark the first time Jeremy Lin will face his former team after being traded this past summer to the Lakers. In 4 games last season, the Rockets took the season series from the Lakers 3-1. However, after losing key role players in Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Omer Asik it remains to be seen how the Rockets will fare this season. After opening night, the Lakers and Rockets will meet again on Nov 19 (@HOU) and Jan 25 (@LAL).
CHRISTMAS IN CHICAGO:
December 25th wouldn’t be Christmas without a little Lakers basketball. However, we’ll have a change of scenery this Christmas when the Lakers play their first holiday game away from Staples since 2006, when they played against Shaquille O’Neal and the Miami Heat. This year, Kris Kringle reunites us with a familiar face when the Lakers go up against Pau Gasol and the Chicago Bulls. This will be the first time Gasol and Carlos Boozer face their former teams after swapping places this Summer. It will also be the first time the Lakers will meet Derrick Rose after sitting out almost 2 full seasons due to injury. The two teams will meet again on Jan 29 when Gasol makes his Staples Center return.
GRAMMY ROAD TRIP:
This season’s Grammy trip seems fairly tame compared to those in years past. In previous seasons, the Grammy trip has lasted as long as 7 games in 12 days. This season the Lakers will only visit 4 cities in a 9 day span. The trip will begin in New York when the Lakers face the Knicks for the first time on Feb 1. Then we head to Milwaukee (Feb 4), where Julius Randle and the #2 overall pick, Jabari Paker, will meet for the first time in the NBA. The trip continues in Orlando (Feb 6), where Randle will go up against another lottery pick, Aaron Gordon (#4 overall). The trip will conclude when the Lakers visit Coach Scott’s former team to take on LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, (Kevin Love? Andrew Wiggins?), and the Cavs in Cleveland on Feb 8.
Last season, the Grammy trip was a 7 game trip where the Lakers went 2-5. This season, being an unusually short trip with no back-to-backs, the Lakers should end the road trip with a winning record. I don’t see Milwaukee or Orlando being much of a threat and we all know how much Kobe loves playing in Madison Square Garden. I expect the Lakers to come away from the Grammy trip going 3-1.
This season, the Lakers will play a total of 16 pairs of B2B games. They’ll start the season right off the bat playing their first 4 games in 2 sets of home/away B2Bs against the Rockets/Suns and the Clippers/Warriors. The Lakers will be the visiting team for a majority of the games in these B2Bs. They will only play 8 of the 32 games at Staples (one will be an away game against the Clippers), all 8 occur on the first night of the B2B. And of course, as it seems to happen every season, the Lakers will play against the Denver Nuggets in the Mile High City on the second night of a B2B following a Clipper home game on April 8th. The Lakers seem to always struggle in this category, in 38 B2B games (19 pairs) last season, the Lakers ended with a record of 11-27, never winning a set of games. They’re going to need to turn that around this season if they expect to improve.
Fresh off the Donald Sterling fiasco, new Clipper owner, Steve Ballmer, and the rest of the Clipper team will almost certainly have some extra spark this season. Especially after newly appointed Lakers head coach (and former head coach of Clippers superstar Chris Paul), Byron Scott, declared that LA was still a Laker town. The Lakers will face the Clippers the usual 4 times (2 home, 2 away) this season, with the first match coming early in the season on Halloween night as a Laker home game. The remaining match-ups will take place on Jan. 7 (@LAC), Apr. 5 (@LAL), and Apr. 7 (@LAC).
After losing the season opener to the Lakers last season, the Clippers dismantled the Lakers by an average of 36 points in the remaining 3 contests and ended up taking the season series 3-1. The hallway series doesn’t get any easier for the Lakers this season after the Clippers added former Laker Jordan Farmar and Spencer Hawes to their depth chart.
A NEW STORY FOR AN OLD RIVALRY:
The Lakers/Celtics rivalry is a part of NBA history, even though it may not be as enticing these days as they were in the past, regardless if it’s for championships, regular season records, or lottery picks, there will always be a certain buzz surrounding a Lakers/Celtics match-up. This season’s match-ups could be the start of a new story when rookies Julius Randle and Marcus Smart take their places in this historic rivalry. Smart was taken by the Celtics with the 6th pick in the draft, one ahead of Randle. After being drafted, Randle said that he felt he should have been drafted higher. “The teams that passed on me will regret it” he said. Let’s hope he starts when the Lakers face the Celtics on Dec. 5 (@BOS) and Feb. 22 (@LAL).
NEW YORK, NEW YORK:
I wouldn’t normally consider a Lakers/Knicks game to be a “notable” game at the beginning of the season, but this year there are too many stories to ignore. Most of LA is still coping with the fact that Phil Jackson agreed to become the President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks last season, but this season we get the added bonus of seeing the team coached by Kobe’s longtime sidekick, Derek Fisher. Not to mention, there’s that Carmelo Anthony guy who turned down a max contract from the Lakers to re-sign with the Knicks this summer. We can watch all this drama unfold when the Lakers and Knicks faceoff on Feb 1 (@NYK) and Mar 12 (@LAL).
Also, the Brooklyn Nets will be in town to play the Lakers at Staples on Feb 20. Why do I consider this game “notable” you ask? It will be the Lakers first game after the Feb 19 NBA Trade Deadline. It’s never too early to speculate last minute trade deadline deals is it?
OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:
- The defending champion San Antonio Spurs will face the Lakers 3 times this season on Nov 14 (@LAL), Dec 12 (@SAS), and Jan 23 (@SAS).
- LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the Cleveland Cavaliers will make their first trip to LA on Jan 15 and the Lakers will head to Cleveland as the last stop in the Grammy road trip on Feb 8 for their only 2 meetings of the season.
- Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will also face Kobe and the Lakers 3 times this season beginning on Dec 19 (@LAL), Mar 1(@LAL), and Mar 24 (@OKC).
- And finally, after all of that, the Lakers will conclude the 2014-2015 regular season with a home and home against the Sacramento Kings on Apr 13 (@SAC) and Apr 15 (@LAL).
It’s obviously too early to tell what kind of success, if any, the Lakers will have this season, but there are encouraging signs. Less back-to-backs than last season along with a shorter Grammy trip will benefit the health of our team. Also, an extended All-Star break will allow the team to rest up to make a push in the second half of the season. If Laker fans have learned anything from the past 2 seasons it’s that health will play a tremendous role in the success of this team. And with a healthy Kobe Bryant ready to start the season, we’re already a leg up over last year.
Welcomed by a large media contingent, Jeremy Lin was officially introduced as a Los Angeles Laker on Thursday at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.
“Really excited to be part of this organization,” said Lin. “Obviously for me it’s a new start, a fresh start. I’m excited to be back in the state of California. It’s definitely good to be back.”
With Lin comes expectations and hype thanks to his rise to stardom in New York in 2011 when ‘Linsanity’ was born. While fans and media may expect a similar performance here in Los Angeles, the 25-year old point guard let it be known that he is not attempting to put on a Hollywood sequel.
“I’m not trying to relive that banner season and I think that’s been a big weight off my shoulder. I’m not trying to recreate a ‘Linsanity,’ ” said Lin, who grew up in nearby Torrance. “I’m not trying to be that phenomenon that happened in New York. I just want to be myself more than ever.”
While Lin does not expect ‘Linsanity’ to return, he ironically is going back to No. 17, the number he wore with the Knicks when his career took off. He wore No. 7 with the Warriors and Rockets.
As with New York, playing for the Lakers comes pressures of performing at a high-level on a national stage, but Lin says he does not feel any added pressure upon his arrival in Los Angeles.
“I feel the least amount of pressure on my shoulders now than I ever had,” said Lin, who averaged 12.5 points and 4.1 assists last season in Houston. “I try to make sure the circumstances don’t dictate the pressure I feel.”
While Lin may not feel pressure now, it could very well be a different story come training camp and the regular season. In recent seasons, the point guard position has been somewhat of a problem for the Lakers. The team hoped that Steve Nash could add a different dynamic to the team but unfortunately injuries have derailed those hopes and now Lin has a chance to take ahold of the starting position moving forward.
Lin brings along career averages of 11.9 points and 4.8 assists, but has shown stretches of brilliance and playing at an elite level that could translate even more so in the bright lights of Los Angeles. While his stint in Houston was not favorable due in large part to James Harden handling the ball and running the offense, it is important to look back at what Lin did in New York when given the opportunities.
In 2011, the Lakers entered Madison Square Garden for its first look at Lin and the point guard decided to have himself career game, scoring 38 points while dishing out seven assists in a 92-85 victory, out dueling Kobe Bryant (34 points and 10 rebounds), who said he had no idea who the point guard was before the matchup, but did later question how NBA personnel missed a talent like Lin.
“The biggest thing to me is how everybody missed it,” Bryant said before the 2011 All-Star Game. “They all would be fired if I was owning a team. I hear this stuff, ‘It came out of nowhere.’ I think it’s a load of [garbage]. You can’t play that well and just come out of nowhere. There has to be something there and everybody missed it. So heads would roll [if I was owner].”
For the Lakers and its fans, there will be zero complains if ‘Linsanity’ is recreated, but Lin made it clear he is looking to create a new chapter with the purple and gold instead of hanging onto past success.
“I’m not trying to be a player from the past,” Lin said. “I’m trying to make history again.”
And with a historic franchise like the Lakers, the stage is set for him to do just that.
Most Lakers fans have expressed disappointment and frustration towards Lakers management this offseason, primarily towards Lakers Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss and Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
This will be the second summer in a row that the Lakers have not acquired a big-name free agent while losing a key asset simultaneously. Last year, the Lakers could not acquire high-quality players like PG Chris Paul, SF Andre Igudola, and PF Paul Millsap while C Dwight Howard left the Lakers to sign with Houston Rockets. This off season, the Lakers could not acquire neither SF LeBron James nor SF Carmelo Anthony, which correlated to C Pau Gasol leaving the Lakers to head to the Chicago Bulls to compete for another NBA championship.
In the past, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant vocally expressed his displeasure with Lakers management–most notably during 2007 when he demanded a trade from the Lakers and in 2011 when the Lakers traded Lamar Odom away for a trade exception. However, Bryant tells ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne that he approves the effort Lakers management made this offseason, despite not coming away with big name free agents.
Kobe: "I can sit here and tell you with 100 percent honesty that I'm happy with the effort the organization put forward this summer"
Bryant seems to understand that despite the long shot, the Lakers did everything they could possibly do to acquire James or Anthony, which included a 2.5 hour presentation towards Anthony to convince him to join Bryant and the rest of the Lakers for this upcoming season.
Furthermore, Bryant approves of the Lakers so-called “Plan B” in response to losing out on free agents and losing their own.
Kobe "I think Mitch has responded quite efficiently (from missing on Melo/Pau) by picking up some of the pieces he has"
The Lakers have acquired PG Jeremy Lin and two draft picks from the Houston Rockets, PF Ed Davis in free agency, and PF Carlos Boozer after the Chicago Bulls decided to amnesty him. Furthermore, the Lakers re-signed SF Nick Young, C/PF Jordan Hill, and G Xavier Henry, while selecting PF Julius Randle and PG Jordan Clarkson at the 2014 NBA Draft.
If the Lakers can hire a high-quality coach to maximize the ability of the Lakers roster and acquire an impact player during the NBA Trade Deadline, Bryant and the rest of the Lakers can still surprise the rest of the NBA and make some noise to return to the NBA playoffs this upcoming season.
With free agency well underway now, the two biggest names on the market have chosen their landing spots. Lebron James has decided to return to his hometown of Cleveland, and Carmelo Anthony decided to return to New York and work under Phil Jackson. James was essentially the first domino to fall as once he made his decision most other free agents began to make theirs. The Lakers did their best to try and land Anthony but it was futile in the end. Anthony not signing with the Lakers, unfortunately, meant the departure of long-time PF Pau Gasol, as he declined two separate offers from LA and decided instead to sign with the Chicago Bulls.
The Lakers currently have Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Nick “Swaggy P” Young, Kendall Marshall, Jordan Hill, and Robert Sacre filling out the roster for the upcoming season. The roster is far from what the Lakers would like to have for next season, but it’s going to have to do. There are a few more roster spots to fill out and it is yet to be seen who will fill those spots but it won’t be a big name as the Lakers don’t have much money to work with now.
The starting five currently lacks a decent small forward, and the Lakers will likely sign someone in free agency who can fill that need. Here’s what it looks like right now.
PG Jeremy Lin
SG Kobe Bryant
PF Julius Randle
C Jordan Hill
It’s not terrible, but it’s not that great either. The Lakers are sure to go through another dull year without the talent to get them through a formidable Western Conference.
No one knows who Bryant will be when he returns this season, 36 years old when the season starts and he’s coming off two severe injuries stemming from two seasons ago. Jeremy Lin, who was nothing short of a superstar when he truly debuted in New York, has since come back down to earth and is a rather average point guard in the league. We’re yet to see Randle in an NBA game so it’s realistic to expect Randle to put up decent numbers this season as he starts his career with the purple and gold. Jordan Hill brings his game every night and is a wonderful offensive rebounder who always fights for boards on both sides of the floor. It should be nice to see him in a starting roll where he can play the majority of the position’s minutes.
And of course there’s always Swaggy P, whose crazy antics and celebrations brought a strong energy to the court every night, that will surely be a welcome sign once again.
The sleeper pick for this season is Jordan Clarkson. Yes, Jordan Clarkson, I told a friend of mine about him and he replied “Who is that?”. Exactly. He isn’t necessarily someone you would have heard of unless you’re an avid follower of Laker basketball, but believe me, this kid has talent and he was an absolute steal at #46 in the second round of this years draft. Look for him to make his mark this season.
So where do the Lakers stand right now? Well they definitely don’t look like what many fans felt they would look like a few months ago that’s for sure. Missing out on the big free agent names is something that the Lakers aren’t used to, normally players are chomping at the bit to play for the Lakers.
This hasn’t been the case since the Lakers missed out on Chris Paul. By this I mean that ever since that trade was nixed, the Lakers have really been in a downward spiral. After that, Lamar Odom was traded away to Dallas for basically nothing, and Gasol was to be in trade talks for the next three years. Phil Jackson had retired from coaching, and the Lakers went on to hire Mike Brown. Following that, the Lakers looked to get back on track with the sign and trade of Steve Nash and the acquisition of Dwight Howard through a three-team trade. This turned out to be a miserable failure which led to Brown being fired. Then the Lakers had to chance to get Jackson back, but NOPE, they threw a total curveball and went with Mike D’Antoni instead. Yeah, that worked out well. Howard despised playing in LA under D’Antoni, who couldn’t effectively utilize a big man to save his life, and he didn’t get along so well with Bryant either. Nash broke his leg in the first week of the season which led him to suddenly become “old” and he never performed like he did in his Phoenix days. Bryant tore his Achilles tendon in the final game of the 2012-13 season against Golden State, and then the Lakers were swept in the first round by San Antonio. Howard then left for Houston, and the Lakers had a lot of questions facing them for the upcoming 2013-14 season. Well, Bryant came back mid-season and subsequently broke a bone in his knee and was then out the rest of the season which led the Lakers to finishing with 27 wins and a lottery pick. Even after getting in the lottery they still managed to only get the seventh pick out of it.
So, now they’re here, a shell of the championship teams that won in 2009, and 2010; Bryant being the only remaining player from those teams. Gasol is gone and the Lakers seem to be facing more and more questions each season with hopes of future free agents wanting to come to LA in the coming years. The Lakers have lost that luster they’ve had for so many years, they just don’t have it, and who knows when it will return.
The current roster doesn’t scream success, heck, it barely even whispers mediocrity. I don’t see this team making the playoffs this season in such a tough Western Conference, unless someone plays out of their mind and carries the team. Unlikely though. To top it all off the Lakers don’t even have a first-round pick unless it’s top five; that pick was sent over to Phoenix in the Nash deal.
Uncertainty faces this team to say the least, the Lakers are in an extreme rebuilding process and it could take a while before Staples Center raises another purple and gold banner.
The Houston Rockets have agreed to a trade that sends Jeremy Lin, a 2015 first round pick, and other draft considerations to the Lakers in exchange for cash and the rights to an overseas player. The Lakers will not send any salary back.
The Rockets are looking to unload salary in order to sign free agent Chris Bosh to a max contract and the Lakers were the perfect trade partner as they have cap space to absorb the contract of Lin.
Over his career, Lin averaged 11.9 points, 4.8 assists, and 2.6 assists in four seasons. After not doing much his rookie season in Golden State, Lin burst onto the season in New York in 2011-2012, averaging 14.6 points and 6.2 assists in 35 games for the Knicks. As a free agent, Lin made his way to the Rockets the year after.