Byron Scott will be the new head coach of the Lakers.
Even though the team hasn’t yet officially announced the hiring due to “some little details” that need to be ironed out, he’s agreed in principle to the four-year, $17 million deal that was originally reported on Saturday.
Scott is already giving interviews explaining his excitement over his new role, and wants to make it clear that he will be trying to make the Lakers a defensive team above all else.
“I’m a little tired tonight,” Scott told ESPN.com late Sunday night after returning from a trip to the Caribbean. “But I’m extremely excited about the job, extremely excited about the opportunity to bring the purple and gold back up to championship-caliber basketball.”
Scott said he’s been texting with Lakers star Kobe Bryant throughout the summer and conferring about this year’s team. Bryant texted Scott this weekend after news broke that he had accepted the job.
“He told me he was working out with Wesley [Johnson] and Nick [Young],” Scott said. “I told them that sounded great, but ‘they better be ready to play some defense.’ “
The Lakers finished 28th in defensive efficiency last season, and sure, part of that can be blamed on Mike D’Antoni and his diminished interest in stressing the importance in playing on that end of the floor. But a lot of it also has to do with personnel, and the injuries that forced so many random lineups to be thrown together at various points throughout the season.
The question becomes whether or not Scott is capable of getting the desired results.
As we’ve detailed previously (with some help from John Schuhmann at NBA.com), Scott’s Cavaliers team was historically bad defensively. In fact, he’s the only coach since the league expanded to 30 teams to lead one that finished in the bottom five in defensive efficiency for three straight seasons. You can blame that on the roster if you want, but Mike Brown, for example, took Cleveland immediately from 27th to 17th in that category last season.
Scott is right to want to stress defense, but saying it and implementing the proper schemes are two different things. Maybe he fills out his coaching staff with some strong defensive-minded assistants, but if not, and he is able to turn the defense around, it’ll be the first time in a long time he’s proven capable of doing so.