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First and foremost, who is calling the shots in L.A.? Scott’s dismissal bore all the signs that Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak had made the call. League sources indicated that Scott believed into the weekend that he’d survive and have his third-year option picked up. Something changed, but team president Jeanie Buss, who has taken a more active role in team affairs, did not play a role in Scott’s firing, a league source said.
Mark Medina: On @TWCSportsNet: Mitch Kupchak said “there wasn’t one reason that led to decision not to extend Byron’s contract.”
Mark Medina: On @TWCSportsNet, James Worthy on Byron Scott’s firing: “I thought maybe he would at least get until Feb to see if he can turn things around.”
They also needed someone to indoctrinate members of the next generation of Laker stars — Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell — into the daily grind of NBA life. Bryant wasn’t emotionally available for that, there were no other strong veteran presences in the locker room, so Scott needed to play the bad guy, and he did it often and well. He was ripped repeatedly by fans and media for benching and publicly scolding the kids, right up until Russell was busted for videotaping private conversations with Nick Young in a record-setting act of immaturity.
Scott was hired to say goodbye to Bryant, and to rudely greet the future, and . . . to win? Seriously? Winning realistically was never part of the deal, and Lakers management even admitted as much earlier this season. It was decided that the team was going to cling to Bryant’s fading glow for as long as it lasted, celebrate that glow, bask in that glow, and everything else was shadows.
Kupchak also deferred to Scott on how he handled roles and praised him for his demanding expectations. Yet Kupchak conceded uncertainty about how that approach affected the Lakers’ young core. Hence, one Lakers player, who requested anonymity, said he and other teammates believed the Lakers would retain Scott after watching Kupchak’s season-ending press conference. Still, Kupchak offered at least one signal about Scott’s possible departure.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Jeanie Buss did not take part in the decision to part ways with Scott. While she has final say within the organization, Jim Buss and Kupchak were given full authority to make this basketball choice. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
The Lakers said a coaching search will “begin immediately.” Yet it is not immediately clear who will replace Scott, or if the team will retain any of his assistants, which include Paul Pressey, Mark Madsen, Larry Lewis, Jim Eyen and Thomas Scott. The Lakers lost out on potential coaching candidates after mulling Scott’s future for the past week. Those possibilities included Tom Thibodeau (Minnesota) and Scott Brooks (Washington), both of whom would have been interested in the job, according to sources familiar with their thinking. Possible replacements could include Golden State Warriors assistant Luke Walton, former Rockets and Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina.
The Lakers met with Byron Scott twice this week, sources said, to discuss last year and philosophical issues going forward before making the decision not to pick up their option on him Sunday
Mark Medina: I’m told Byron had impression from Lakers through late last week that he would stay. That changed on Sunday night. bit.ly/1Qwyalx
Mark Medina: Just spoke with Larry Nance Jr., who said he was a “big fan” of Byron Scott & thanked him for the opportunities he received this year
Bill Oram: One Lakers player texted and said he “kinda saw the writing on wall” that Byron Scott was done. Must have Twitter.
“I know he’s hoping that he coaches here forever, but a lot of times what we do is we’re really preparing for the next GM or the next coach. That’s tough sometimes,” Kupchak said. “It does take time to develop young players. We’ll know in two or three years how effective Byron was as a parent to the young guys on this team.”
Mark Medina: Mitch on Byron: Byron and our staff are under contract.” Mitch said he and Jim Buss may meet with Byron. “There’s a lot to discuss.”
Mike Bresnahan: Byron on his future: “I think we’re all still on the same page. We have a lot obviously to dissect…after that, whatever happens, happens.”
Believe it or not, Byron Scott has what one source described as a “major chance” to stay with the Lakers; Jeanie Buss is said to be pushing for Scott behind the scenes. If so, it could clear the way for a top-to-bottom reset for the franchise in 2017, and the possible return of Jackson to run basketball operations with Luke Walton as the coach. There are a lot of dots to be connected to get from here to there, though — not to mention a lot more games for the Lakers to lose.
As Russell heard the constant stream of positive feedback and reinforcement, the stern look on his face when he entered the building began to fade. The normally affable 20-year-old began to open up and joke with fans, though he was not made available to reporters for comment. “Take the torch,” a fan told him. “Take over. Byron Scott won’t be there!” The last sentence elicited a laugh and a big smile from Russell. He simply responded with a “thank you,” but his body language said it all.
Howard Beck: Theory floating around league: Lakers keep Byron 1 more year, just in case Phil opts out and returns to L.A. and wants to pick the coach.
Howard Beck: As I say, it’s just a theory, though. No indication that PJax has any inclination to leave Knicks, or return to LA to run Lakers.
Kupchak declined to talk about Scott on Wednesday before reciting that he remains under contract in a two-year deal worth $8.5 million. But even without Kupchak offering a public vote of confidence, Scott still expressed confidence about his standing after talking with Kupchak on Wednesday afternoon. “It was good,” Scott said after practice on Thursday at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “Our conversation was a good conversation.”
Mike Bresnahan: Byron + Mitch spoke about the future, Byron said, declining to provide details other than saying, “Our conversation was a good conversation”
“Byron is under contract, and until that changes, or if that changes, I’ll let you know,” Mitch Kupchak said at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.
“Once again, I don’t want to get into a Byron discussion right now,” Kupchak said. “So I’m not going to really answer any more questions about Byron, because I’m concerned that one question will lead to another, and if his status changes, I will let you know.”
Lakers VP of public relations John Black interjected, saying, “Excuse me, he’s not answering Byron questions.” Mitch Kupchak then responded, jokingly adding, “I was going to let him finish and then say that, as part of his punishment. So, John, I can handle that.”
Mark Medina: Mitch Kupchak said he wouldn’t talk more about how Byron Scott has done. But I thought it fair to ask about criticism he has gotten w/ handling Russell.
The franchise seems torn on whether he’ll return for the third and last guaranteed year on his contract. He is expected to coach the rest of this season, and some within the organization wonder what Scott might do with a better roster. The one he has now has produced an 11-44 record, second-worst in the NBA.
Others, however, wonder about the effectiveness of the tough love he administers to the team’s many young players. Something in Scott’s favor: more talent could arrive by late June. The Lakers have a better-than-expected chance of retaining their top-three protected draft pick and will then have about $55 million to spend on free agents.
“When I talk with a lot of people around the league the expectation is Byron Scott will not be the coach next season,” Medina told NBA TV host Jared Greenberg. “But when you talk to the Lakers, they’re saying he’s definitely going to be here this season, and they are going to evaluate him this off-season,” with Medina reporting that the team sees Scott as having a “no-win situation” to an extent due to the difficulties of simultaneously trying to manage Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour while also developing the Lakers’ youth.
Scott is expected to coach through the rest of the regular season, according to a person familiar with the situation, but even he realizes nine victories in 50 games is stretching the limits of acceptable reality. “I would say, ‘Nah, I think we would have a few more,'” Scott said. “I knew it was going to be tough because of all the youngsters that we have and I knew the learning curve was going to take time. I don’t know what everybody else was thinking, but I didn’t expect playoffs or nothing like that.
“I am who I am,” Scott told The Times. “Pat Riley wasn’t easy on us. Larry Brown wasn’t easy on me [in Indiana]. I think that’s the reason I was successful because I had a coach that pushed me and tried to get the very best out of me. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m no different. I want to see how great these guys can be. I want to push them to the limit. I want to push them to things they’ve never done before. If that’s being too tough, so be it.”
Sources close to the process say that Scott’s job will be evaluated after the season and if it is deemed a change is needed it would happen then, and allow the Lakers to do a full and complete search for the right guy for the next part of the rebuild.
But Byron Scott still has enough support from Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of player personnel Jim Buss that he is expected to coach through the rest of the 2015-16 season, according to team sources familiar with the situation. With Scott signing a four-year, $17 million deal last summer, the Lakers plan to evaluate his future once the 2015-16 season ends, according to a team source .
The Lakers are not happy with the persistent losing, obviously. But Kupchak and Buss sympathize with Scott on handling what one team source called “a no-win situation.”
But out of respect for Bryant’s extensive accomplishments that have spanned five NBA championships and his current retirement tour, the Lakers have understood Scott’s tendency to lean on him heavily. They are also mindful of the challenge it takes to manage Bryant’s competitive nature.
While there’s a never-say-never qualifier to the notion that coach Byron Scott could be replaced midseason, it appears for now that he won’t be held responsible for either the dreadful record or the fruitless way in which Bryant continues to play. The coaching component, it should be noted, could always change if this losing streak (currently seven games) grew too big to bear.
The strong sense, however, is that Scott is seen largely as an innocent bystander in Bryant’s bon voyage campaign. Scott signed a four-year, $17 million deal in July 2014 to reunite with his former teammate, but the contract is only guaranteed through next season.
There is growing chatter from a fan base upset with the team’s start, but Scott said he blocks it out. “The one thing I’ve always said, and a great old coach told me this a long time ago, when you start listening to the fans, you’ll be sitting with them next,” Scott said. “I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to fans because fans are fans. Fans aren’t at practice every day. They don’t know the preparation. They don’t know what goes into it. They just see the end product, so they have no idea. And they all have their opinions, but I don’t put a lot of stock into it.
The reality is that ownership isn’t entirely unhappy with how Scott is running things, and with Kobe Bryant in the last year of his contract they haven’t gone into full youth movement mode anyway. While Scott has taken a ton of heat for not getting more minutes for second overall pick D’Angelo Russell, his lack of playing time is as much his own fault as it his coach’s. Russell came into camp unprepared physically and mentally to make the NBA leap and that has led to a slow start that Scott has taken some of the blame for.
Yet, Scott said he still senses support from Kupchak and Lakers executive vice president of basketball personnel Jim Buss. Scott is in the second-year of a four-year contract worth $17 million, with a team option for the final season. “We still understand that this is a process,” Scott said. “We have a lot of young guys on this team that we feel will be very good players. But it’s not going to happen in a month. It’s going to take some time. It might take a year or two.”
Yet, Scott said Kupchak has left Scott freedom to coach as he sees fit. “I’ve told him what I’m thinking about doing at times, some of the things I want to do with the young guys and some of the things I want to do with some of our veteran guys,” Scott said. “But as far as the coaching part, he hasn’t talked about making changes.”
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September 17, 2021 | 5:16 pm EDT Update
The Denver Nuggets have signed forward Petr Cornelie to a two-way contract, President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly announced today.
The word in Spanish basketball circles, as reiterated to me Friday, is that Marc Gasol is most likely to play for Girona if he decides to play on, even though the LEB Oro is one level below Spain’s top tier. I’m told he has been working out with new Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio to stay sharp even after negotiating his release earlier this week from Memphis following the Grizzlies’ recent trade with the Lakers to take on the final year of Gasol’s last NBA contract.
Ballots for the NBA’s 75th anniversary team were due back to the league office today. The league previously announced that the official list of its 75 greatest players, as selected by “a blue-ribbon panel of media, current and former players, coaches, general managers and team executives,” will be revealed in October. The voters will also be revealed — not their full individual ballots but the names of those who made the selections.
Mark Berman: New #Rockets star Jalen Green throwing out the first pitch before the Astros play Arizona.
September 17, 2021 | 3:51 pm EDT Update
After securing the arrival of Mario Hezonja, Russian team UNICS Kazan will announce soon the signing of former NBA guard OJ Mayo.
UNICS Kazan is adding one more marquee name to its roster with O.J.Mayo having a one-year deal with the Russian club. While there’s no signed contract yet, that seems to be more a formality delayed by bureaucratic reasons.