Old school Byron Scott thought he was coaching old-school Kobe Bryant last season. He didn’t listen to the man himself, and ran Kobe into the ground. By Jan. 23 Kobe was done for the season.
This season — maybe be Kobe’s last — Scott is going to back off. Fewer minutes, no back-to-backs, and most importantly he told Bill Oram of the Orange County Register this year he’s going to listen to Kobe. He regrets what happened last season.
I felt bad about it. I don’t know if I would say guilty. I know Kobe’s a competitor and he’s going to play as many minutes as you want him to play. I’m also a competitor, so I want to win and I know having him on the court gives me the best opportunity to win. But I also know that I’ve got to think about him more than anything. And I thought there were points in time last year where I thought he could play a certain amount of minutes. He told me Day One the minutes that he thought he could play in and like I told him at the end of the day, ‘You were absolutely right and I was wrong.’ I won’t make that mistake again….
I think the biggest decision is playing time, trying to make that as limited as possible and also back-to-back games. That’s something we have to talk about. Other than that, there really is no other decision to make. He wants to play, and he wants to go out the way he wants to go out — if this is indeed his final year. He and I have talked a number of times on the phone, we’ve talked about playing time, we’ve talked about back-to-back, we’re going to probably sit down as we get closer to training camp or as we get in training camp and even talk more about it. Because the one thing I want, if this is his last year, I want him to go out standing. I don’t want him to go out hurt. I want to make sure I do everything in my power to make sure we stick to the game plan, as far as his minutes and as far as back-to-back games.
I believe Scott will stick to his guns this season. Look for Kobe to play in the mid-20s a night and not play in one night of back-to-backs.
Lakers fans’ shouldn’t spend this season counting wins — the team is not good enough to make the playoffs in the West, but is too good to hold on to a pick only top three protected (without a lot of lottery help). Lakers fans should instead focus on two things:
1) The development of D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. If the Lakers are going to climb back to the top of the NBA in a few years, those guys will be at the heart of it (one way or another). Whether the Lakers made the right pick with Russell and whether the organization — and Byron Scott in particular — can develop players are the big questions that start to be answered.
2) Savor Kobe the player. Guys like him come around once in a generation. He’s one of the greatest wing players ever in the game, a guy with unbelievable drive and crafted fundamentals. Savor it, he is going away soon. Watch him, enjoy his smart plays, revel is the passion, remember the good times. So many franchises, so many fan bases never get a Kobe, enjoy this one while you still can. No matter how many minutes Scott plays him.