Kurt Helin

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Report: Lakers have no plans to fire Byron Scott mid-season


On twitter, it has been called the low-key tank. For the second season in a row the Lakers’ results suggest as an organization they are okay with losing games — they need to stay in the top three to keep their pick next June (otherwise it goes to Philadelphia) — but without ever admitting that is the goal. I know for a fact losing like this — 2-15 including to start the season being the lone victim of Philadelphia — wasn’t the Lakers’ goal when the season started, but it appears to be the wise course of action now.

With that in mind…

The Lakers have no plans to remove coach Byron Scott or to make other changes during the season, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today.

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.

Scott has always felt like a placeholder coach for the Lakers. With him and Kobe Bryant they could sell ties to the Lakers’ legendary past, they could keep the seats full and the sponsors happy (and ideally the television ratings up), all while hitting the reset button. Then when the time came they could keep Scott or, more likely, bring in a coach that would take the Lakers’ young players (and any free agents they could land) and build a system around their talents.

That transition likely begins next summer. As for the rest of this season, it’s status quo. For now. If the Lakers’ losing streaks get too long there will be pressure to make a move, but there are no plans now.

Scott said after the Lakers’ loss to Philadelphia that he had no plans to make significant changes, that Kobe has earned the right to take a lot of isolation shots, and they just have to live with the misses. Interesting strategy. Even second-year player Jordan Clarkson suggested the Lakers need to run more pick-and-roll and take other steps to free Kobe up. Nick Young of all people said the Lakers needed less isolation and more team play. But Scott is saying the system isn’t broken, it’s just a make or miss league, and the Lakers are missing right now.

It’s what you would say if you were low key tanking.


DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo had recent two-hour meeting with George Karl

George Karl, Rajon Rondo

It wasn’t a traditional “come to Jesus meeting,” but it was one that was long overdue.

It was a meeting trying to get all the Kings’ core — DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, and coach George Karl — on the same page.

In Milwaukee last week the three of them sat down for a two-hour meeting, reports Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports.

“It was a powerful meeting for all three of us,” Rondo told Yahoo Sports….

The main thing Rondo and Cousins told Karl was that his film sessions would be better with more constructive criticism and teaching. Rondo and Cousins said they also told Karl not to hesitate to use them as examples in film sessions….

Karl said Rondo and Cousins also asked that he be more selective about pushing the pace offensively. Karl said he would agree to slow the offense down under one condition.

“I said, ‘OK, I will slow it down if you do what I want.’ That’s not fighting each other. That’s mutually coming together,” Karl told Yahoo Sports. “If we have to compromise something, we will compromise something.”

The Kings have gone 2-2 since that meeting, although getting Cousins back on the court after back issues sidelined him matters far more than what was said in the coach’s office. The Kings are 6-5 this season when Cousins plays, 1-7 when he is out. Coaching matters, being on the same page matters, but none of it matters as much as talent.

Cousins said that Karl has seemed more aggressive since the meeting, and that he and Rondo like that. The lines of communication seem more open. It’s a start.

In a down Western Conference the Kings at 7-12 are not out of the playoff picture, but they have a lot of work to do and can’t have any more serious setbacks. They need Cousins, Rondo, and Karl pulling on the rope in the same direction. They also need Cousins to just stay on the court.



Brett Brown: We’d be naive to think losing hasn’t impacted Jahlil Okafor


Jahlil Okafor‘s run-ins with both fans outside clubssome apparently with guns — as well as law enforcement have become a daily headline. Literally. Today there is a new headline about a second fight in Boston. He has apologized, but taking no chances the Sixers have already assigned a security guard to shadow Okafor when he is out.

In the run-up to the draft, there were no questions about Okafor’s character, maturity, or the situations he put himself in, but there are a lot now. Which led some to wonder, is it the losing?

Sixers coach Brett Brown told Dan Patrick we’d be naive to think that it’s not part of the equation.

It certainly is not all of it, and Okafor must take responsibility (especially if there are charges, which are rumored to be coming out of Boston). But the losing, and what kind of system the Sixers have in place to guide their young stars (on and off the court), have to be questioned as well. There are likely a lot of factors here. Including that Okafor is 19 and 19-year-olds often don’t make wise decisions.

Sixers fans, if you are living in the Philadelphia area and subscribe to Comcast Sportsnet, you can stream tonight’s game when the Sixers take on the New York Knicks in Manhattan, just follow this link.


Five Takeaways from NBA Tuesday: Sixers win, Lakers Xs/Os just painful

Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington, Julius Randle

It was the kind of night where everybody was watching the two worst teams in the NBA play — and doing so intently. That game didn’t disappoint, but there were a few others worth watching. All of it was better than worrying about the economic impacts of building a Death Star, so here is what you need to know from the NBA Tuesday.

1) The streak is dead — Philadephia finally gets a win. This wasn’t out of nowhere — Philadelphia had been playing hard and coming close for weeks. They should have a few wins now. But in the hapless Lakers the Sixers found a team that couldn’t crank up their defensive pressure or offense in the fourth, and the energy was enough to get the win. Enjoy it. Celebrate Robert Covington‘s 23 points (including five threes), and he also covered Kobe (and we’d say forced him into a bad shooting night, but Kobe does that himself). Celebrate Jerami Grant‘s blocks. For a night don’t think about how Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel don’t fit together along the front line and just bask in the glow of victory. Then know you have to face the Knicks at MSG Wednesday.

2) Byron Scott says Lakers need to live with Kobe Bryant’s isolation shots, rest of locker room not sold. The Lakers are a mess. That was true long before they handed the Sixers their first win of the season Tuesday night, but this game highlighted the problems. Los Angeles is a team that should be about developing its young stars and instead rests D'Angelo Russell late in games and gives Kobe Bryant carte blanche to jack up as many shots as he wants. And jack them up he did on Tuesday — 7-of-26 shooting for 20 points, and he was 4-of-17 from three (after starting 3-of-3 from deep).

The Lakers’ Xs and Os are an issue — they run a dinosaur era offense that teams can defend, and it leads to a lot of isolation basketball. Byron Scott is good with that, as he told ESPN’s Baxter Holmes.

“Yeah, there’s going to be some games like that that you’re just going to live and die with it,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said of Bryant’s shooting. “You just hope that you don’t die too much. You hope that you can live a little bit more. Yeah, there’s going to be some nights like that.”

As you would expect, the other Lakers in the locker room defended Kobe’s right to shoot as much as he wants, but even they are now questioning the offense and how he is getting those shots. Via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

“We have to make the game easier on (Kobe) instead of trying to iso,” said Jordan Clarkson, who had 19 points on 9-of-19 shooting. “We can get screens for him. We put more emphasis on that instead of having all eyes on him the whole game, that’s taxing.”

But what will it take for that to happen?

“You can’t blame (Kobe). He takes a lot of shots. But it’s everybody,” Nick Young said. “From the coaches to the players, we have to get on one page and on the same page. I can’t tell you why that’s not happening right now. All I know is the circus came to town today and we did what we normally do.”

When Nick Young is saying your offense needs to have less isolation basketball and more teamwork, you know you have problems.

3) Wizards break out of their slump and beat Cavaliers. I didn not see this one coming. The Washington Wizards had dropped four straight to potential playoff teams in the East, they had looked terrible of late, then against the Cavaliers they jump out to a 10-0 lead to open the game and never looked back (well, it got close a couple of times but they never trailed). John Wall — who had admitted he needed to play better, and he was right — was attacking again and finished with 35 points on 24 shots, plus had 10 assists. Randy Wittman rolled out a “tiny ball” lineup (to use Mike Prada’s line) with Jared Dudley at center and Otto Porter at the four, and in limited stretches it worked. Everything went the Wizards’ way for a night; now we’ll see if they can build on it (one game alone does not a turnaround make).

4) Dirk Nowitzki gets spun. Dallas picked up a quality road win in overtime Tuesday in front of Commissioner Adam Silver, getting 30 points from Deron Williams and beating the Blazers in overtime. But the play of the night was C.J. McCollum putting Dirk Nowitzki in the blender and hitting spin.

5) Marc Gasol has record night. Anthony Davis couldn’t stop him. Tuesday nobody could stop him. Memphis’ Gasol dropped a career-high 38 points, plus grabbed 13 boards, had six assists and four blocks in the Grizzlies 113-104 victory over the Pelicans. Gasol’s 16 made free throws tied the Memphis franchise record for free throws made in a game. Gasol just had it going on.

Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol drops career-best 38 on Pelicans (VIDEO)

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Marc Gasol was not the same offensive player he was a year ago through the start of this season. His points were down (14.9 per game), his shot attempts, his field goal percentage, pretty much every thing was down from a year ago.

He made up for that Tuesday night.

Gasol dropped a career-high 38 points, plus grabbed 13 board, had six assists and four blocks in the Grizzlies 113-104 victory over the Pelicans. Not Anthony Davis, nobody could slow him from New Orleans. Gasol’s 16 made free throws tied the Memphis franchise record for free throws made in a game.