The Los Angeles Lakers currently sit second to last in the Western Conference standings, just three losses away from tying Minnesota, New York and Philadelphia for the most losses in the NBA. It’s the Lakers worst start in franchise history and Los Angeles’ inability to keep Dwight Howard or sign any big name free agents since his departure has certainly raised some eyebrows.
The passing of the late great Dr. Jerry Buss has left the future of the Lakers organization in the hands of the Buss children, as well as Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. The firing of Mike Brown and controversial hire of Mike D’Antoni after rumors circulated that Phil Jackson was in the process of considering taking the head coaching job, certainly raised a red flag during that time. Subsequently, the resignation of D’Antoni and the hire of current Lakers head coach Byron Scott all occurred in a span of a couple years.
With that in mind, what gives Scott the confidence that he too, won’t be grouped in the pool of unsuccessful Lakers coaching hires the past few years?
Just the fact that I trust Mitch (Kuphcak) and I trust Jim (Buss), and that’s basically what they told me, that it’s going to take a few years,” Scott said during the Lakers Grammy roadtrip. “I was more than willing to say ‘OK give me two years, three years whatever the case may be, I’m in it for the long haul.'”
Scott is no stranger to the often inevitable short-term changing of expectations from management. As a head coach, Scott took the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals twice during his four years in New Jersey, before ultimately being fired during the 2003-2004 season, after a disappointing record going into the All-Star break.
While in New Orleans, Scott was awarded with the 2007–2008 NBA Coach of the Year award, the same year the Hornets clinched the Southwest Division title. But, after losing in the first round of the playoffs the next year and starting the 2009-2010 season 3-6, Scott was relieved of his coaching duties. Then hired in 2010 by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Scott was eventually fired at the end of the 2012-2013 season.
Sometimes ownership gets a little antsy, and they tell you it’s a four year plan and all of a sudden it’s a two and a half year plan and you’re on the outs, but I’m willing to take that chance because of this organization,” Scott said after voicing his utmost confidence that given time the Lakers would be back on top.
Executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss told the Los Angeles Times in April of 2014 that if the Lakers were not back contending for a championship in three to four years, he’d step down from his position, though setting a specific timeline was to the dismay of his sister and team president Jeanie Buss. Buss told ESPN The Magazine that she was confident in her brother and that there was “no reason” to announce a timeline.
Whether deserved or not, Lakers ownership and management has been under a critical microscope, since the passing of Dr. Buss, absorbing the heat for the Lakers decline.
The Lakers inability to secure a big name free agent or re-sign Pau Gasol in the summer of 2014 was not only another testament to the competitiveness of the free agent market, but also an indication that the spotlight and lure of Los Angeles may not have the same impact that it once did.
Financially speaking, the Lakers will be in a flexible position with enough cap room to make big moves over the next couple years. Next season is the final year of Kobe Bryant’s contract (25 million on the books) and free agents like Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Love will be entertaining pitchers from suitors.
All eyes will be on what moves the Lakers make this summer.
Obviously for the organization and obviously for me, this summer is going to be big. I think we all know that,” Scott said. “This summer will give us the indication of if we can turn it around a lot quicker than we even expect.”
For really the first time in Lakers history, speculation looms that max free agents are giving a second thought to signing in Los Angeles. What the Lakers are able to accomplish this summer has the ability to alter the growing public doubt of the Lakers front office capabilities, as well as set a new blueprint for the future of the purple and gold.[divide]
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