Lakers Must Exact Real Change in Post-Kobe Bryant Era
Another era will begin for the Los Angeles Lakers when the 2016-17 NBA season rolls around, and the impact will be two-fold. Not only will Kobe Bryant no longer be around to hoist jumpers, but per reports, the Lakers will also have a new head coach.
Byron Scott is officially out as L.A.’s head coach after just two years, prompting immediate speculation as to which direction Los Angeles will go.
The Lakers finally made an excellent decision, as Scott was too old fashioned for his own good, didn’t do a good job coaching up young talent and catered to the Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour at a sickening level.
There was no denying what the Lakers were doing all along, of course. They knew they weren’t contending for a title, so they threw in the towel after losing out to Dwight Howard over two years ago, signed Bryant onto an insanely expensive two-year deal to finish his career, and then brought in Scott to keep the youngsters at bay.
Los Angeles still sold tickets and The Black Mamba’s final season at the very least was interesting – especially his insane 60-point game in his career finale.
Scott served his purpose, but he was never going to be the guy to lead the Lakers back to the promised land.
The Lakers issued a press release late on Sunday night and remained classy in the divorce, with GM Mitch Kupchak thanking Scott for his time with the team:
“We would like to thank Byron for his hard work, dedication and loyalty over the last two years, but have decided it is in the best interest of the organization to make a change at this time.”
Scott’s horrid 38-126 record through two years is gone, but not before Scott and the Lakers enabled a two-year run of constant losing and coddling to their aging star.
It’s a major catch-22 looking back, as some probably felt Bryant still had something to give and that at the very worst, Scott had experience (coached in two NBA Finals series) and was of course, a former Laker.
Who better to make sure Bryant’s remaining time in Los Angeles ended the right way? And who better to ultimately take the fall?
Regardless of what you believe, Scott was always the fall guy, and it never looked like he really cared. Considering they set it up and allowed it throughout, it was pretty clear the Lakers didn’t, either.
Now they have to change course. It could start from the very top with Jeanie Bus finally taking full control (as she should), but at the bare minimum, the Lakers need to do two things: hire a quality coach to buckle down with for the long-term and start properly developing their talent.
The Lakers have been trying hard to find quick fix solutions for years, but with Kobe Bryant finally gone, they can relax and look ahead knowing they needn’t worry about adding on to a failing legend – they can create a new one.
That naturally begins with star youngsters D’Angelo Russell and Julus Randle, as well as whoever else the Lakers can bring in this summer via the draft and free agency.
That won’t do, of course. Talent and youth aren’t enough. L.A. needs to find the right fit at head coach that can lead, direct and mold in a fashion that Scott clearly couldn’t – or loudly refused to.
Los Angeles is a fun spot to coach, and in the past it could also be a miserable one. Bryant was the epitome of a catch-22 situation, but with him now retired, the Lakers can start fresh.
That means they don’t need to cater to Bryant, to a system or to anyone else’s ideal. They can go out and get the coach they want, that they believe in, that they think has the system, vision and skill-set to make the Lakers great again.
Right or wrong, their best bets look to be Brian Shaw, Luke Walton, Kevin Ollie, Jeff Van Gundy and Spurs assistant, Ettore Messina.
Those are just the ones that stand out at first glance, and arguments can easily be made for and both the entire lot. They’re also not going to be the only names the Lakers consider, as the process has literally just begun and L.A. promises to produce a “long list” of potential coaches to take over the helm.
It’s a decorated post, and one that is supposed to end with a great team competing for a title on a yearly basis. Naturally, the Lakers should take their time in choosing, consider all avenues and make sure the guy they pick stands the test of time – going beyond their gut or some research. The next Lakers coach needs to be a guy that isn’t just probably or hopefully the answer, but one that actually is afforded the support and patience to develop into that, should the success not come immediately.
Los Angeles wasn’t patient in the final years of Kobe Bryant’s career. They made trades and big signings that, looking back, either made little sense or were so ambitious that they bordered on foolish.
It’s time for the Lakers to get smart. They have an interesting group of young talent, they’ll add more talent this summer and they need to be sure the guy they bring in to corral this young roster has the goods to reel each player in, let them run wild when necessary and piece together a rotation that can comfortably co-exist and be successful.
Who that coach ends up being is anyone’s guess. We probably can’t even rule out college legends like Coach K or John Calipari. We can’t forget about David Blatt, either. And we can’t ignore the very real possibility that the Lakers are smarter than we thought and they already know exactly who they want.
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