ESPN released their Summer Forecast last week, ranking the Los Angeles Lakers 14th in the Western Conference, predicting them to finish just five wins better than last year’s team, with a 26-56 record. The prior two seasons, the forecast predicted the Lakers would finish at No. 12, and both seasons, the Lakers finished 14th in the Western conference.
In an interview with Chris McGee on Time Warner Cable SportsNet, Lakers head coach Byron Scott said he already has plans to use ESPN’s predictions as motivation this season.
“It motivates me big-time,” Scott told McGee. “And I know how No. 24 (Kobe Bryant) is….and I hope it motivates them (the rest of the Lakers roster) too, because I think we’re a lot better than everybody thinks we are.”
The Lakers finished the 2014-15 season with an injury-ridden roster and a 21-61 record, the worst season in franchise history. If this year’s roster can stay healthy, Scott expects this team to surprise some people.
“If we can stay somewhere close to injury free, keep Kobe on the floor, I think we can surprise some people,” Scott said on Time Warner Cable SportsNet.
No. 2 draft pick D’Angelo Russell also buys into Scott’s principle of using it as motivation, telling McGee that although the West is a tough conference with some of the best players, being predicted to finish 14th shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“If we’re the underdog, we’re not doing something right, so we should know that we’ve got to come in and work everyday, prepared to be the best.”
Julius Randle had a different outlook on ESPN’s rankings.
“It doesn’t matter to me, honestly. When you go out there and play, you’ve got to prove that type of stuff. The official ranking will be at the end of the season, and that’s all we care about.”
Roy Hibbert, who was also ranked fifth on ESPN’s worst newcomer list shared a similar perspective as Randle, when asked by SportsNet’s McGee.
“I don’t look at rankings. I’m just going to make sure I do my part to help this team win. I know we’ve got a good group of young guys and some veteran guys as well, that are going to help the young guys.”
This is the eighth year ESPN has kicked off their Summer Forecast, which always seems to cause quite a stir. Bryant hasn’t been shy about commenting on ESPN’s ranking in the past, from publicly tweeting about it, to infamously referring to ESPN as a “bunch of idiots” after he was ranked 40th best player in their 2014 #NBARank player rankings.
Whether or not the players pay attention to the rankings, it sounds like Scott already has plans to use the forecast as one of many motivators this season, telling McGee with a grin:
“I’m going to hang it up in the locker room, ‘This is where everyone expects you guys to be. Let’s prove them wrong!'”[divide]
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