Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Great Scott! Byron’s got his work cut out for him with the LA Lakers!

This appears on the NBA Philippines site.

Great Scott! Byron’s got his work cut out for him.
by rick olivares pic by kirby lee/usa today

In a previous column, I wondered about NBA players playing for their hometown teams. We saw LeBron James go back to his Cleveland Cavaliers while Carmelo Anthony opted to stay in New York.

Kevin Durant then wondered about going home to Washington D.C. where he watched the Bullets/Wizards as a kid. Who knows what will happen in two years’ time when his contract with Oklahoma City expires?

However it isn’t only the players who are going “home”.

There’s Byron Scott who not only grew up in Los Angeles to play for the hometown Lakers where he won some championships but he’s now getting the chance to coach them as well.

In one of the few right moves made by Lakers management, they brought back a hero on their Showtime teams but someone who has also made a name for himself as a head coach.

The last link to those Showtime teams actually got to play with Kobe Bryant in his rookie year and now they get a chance to change the course of their team’s sagging fortunes. 

So do I like the move?

Yes. On two levels.

For starters, Scott cut his coaching eyeteeth working with bad teams. Once he got them to buy into the defensive schemes, they got better.

Two, Scott got his teams out of the doldrums when he acquired a darn good point guard.

Cases in point for both points.

Point Guard
New Jersey
6th Atlantic
Stephon Marbury

East Champions
Jason Kidd
This Nets team that John Calipari had put together was good but not that good as they lacked depth. After Calipari, Don Casey took over and the team’s decline continued. Scott inherited a team that was a mess.

But in his first year with Jason Kidd, Scott re-tooled the team getting players he wanted to play his brand of defense. From 23rd in 2000-01, they jumped all the way to #1 in team defense.

Point Guard
New Orleans
5th Southwest
Dan Dickau

4th Southwest
Chris Paul
I was surprised that this team that finished with an even 41-41 record under Tim Floyd and was 12th best in the NBA in defense fell to 22nd in the rankings.

But in 2005-06, Scott was able to get the team to play better defense and they moved up to 19th.

Point Guard
5th Central
Ramon Sessions
21-45 (strike shortened season)
5th Central
Kyrie Irving
After losing LeBron James, the team that ranked 7th in the NBA defensively tumbled all the way to 29th!  The improved slightly to 26th in Scott’s second year; hence, the better record.

However, Scott couldn’t get his teams to progress any further after their initial gains prompting his removal from duty. In fact, it is even telling that his teams played better in that first season after his departure.

It should be noted that in the press conference that announced his hiring by the Lakers, Scott decried any illusions of the fastbreaking style that was played when he wore the purple and gold. That team had Magic Johnson as its point guard.

This current Lakers team has a broken down Steve Nash who is so far removed from his MVP days.

Correction. It is a broken down team with Kobe Bryant enduring two injury-laden seasons after being relatively healthy all throughout his past 18 seasons.

Health is paramount for this team in transition. Now that they look healthy, it’s time to buckle down to work. And Scott has emphasized defense: “First of all, defense, we got to do that on a night-to-night basis.”

The 25th coach in LA Lakers history also said that he’d like to sometimes play Kobe Bryant at the one-spot. The problem is that isn’t Bryant’s natural position. Besides, if Nash isn’t up to it, Scott will have the newly acquired Jeremy Lin.

His cache of credit and goodwill with Bryant will be a major factor is working that locker room.

Scott has made a name for himself as a good transition coach albeit one who can’t get them to the next level (some will digress as they point to Jason Kidd more as the reason why the Nets made the finals more than Scott’s coaching chops).

Maybe a homecoming will change not only the Lakers’ fortunes but his as well.

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