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Lure of LeBron James Clear to Lakers, but Coaching Search Much More Complicated

Mark J. Terrill/AP Images
Kevin DingNBA Senior WriterJune 11, 2014

LOS ANGELES — If LeBron James wins the current NBA Finals and is so brash as to ditch the Miami Heat while still on top for a third consecutive year, or if he loses to the Spurs and dares to assume the role of bad-guy "Decision" deserter again and ditches the Miami Heat as soon as they're down, and if James is more drawn to the glory of the Los Angeles Lakers' past than anyone knows, and if James is actually sold on Kobe Bryant's future and wants more than anyone is aware of to learn firsthand from Bryant's tough love…

If all those low-percentage conditions are met, then we could get to the matter of how it might benefit the Lakers to keep their head coach's office vacant to sell James on being able to pick his own guy to fill it, a notion that has circulated in some NBA circles.

Except even then, that's not the Lakers' intention.

The Lakers wouldn't want to give any superstar the power and pressure of tabbing his own coach and having the run of their franchise.

What they would do, absolutely, is the same thing they've had in mind from the beginning of this coaching search: If no one dazzles them as a must-hire guy as soon as possible, they'll just keep waiting and evaluate the potential benefit of how well the next coach matches up with whoever is on the roster besides Bryant.

If the moon really does go down over Miami and James then chooses the Lakers, L.A. would quite simply want to get the best possible win-now coach—not the coach James selects—to make the most of the LeBron-Kobe pairing's championship window.

And more established win-now coaches would want the chance to coach James and Bryant, of course. Mark Jackson would be boxing out Jeff Van Gundy and jumping out from behind the ABC broadcast table to follow James to the Lakers. Assuming Mike Krzyzewski wouldn't leave Duke for the truly once-in-a-lifetime chance to shoot for an NBA title with his USA Basketball leaders James and Bryant, it's interesting to note that Nate McMillan was a Team USA assistant with those guys.

Byron Scott's willingness to guide a rebuilding team and experience with playoff clubs has made him an appealing coaching candidate for the Lakers.
Byron Scott's willingness to guide a rebuilding team and experience with playoff clubs has made him an appealing coaching candidate for the Lakers.Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Yes, James is the only potential free agent in this summer's class the Lakers are viewing as a max-salary, home run guy—and their entire approach to their salary-cap space is not to fritter it away on anyone who isn't a sure thing.

So in that sense, talking about James and the Lakers isn't without basis. But waiting to hire a coach until after the opening of free agency on July 1, which the Lakers still might not do if they decide they don't have the right candidate, is geared more toward seeing what quality players might take the one-year contracts the Lakers will be offering than seeing if James comes.

The Lakers will look a lot different if Nick Young and Jodie Meeks re-sign as opposed to Luol Deng and Emeka Okafor signing up from the outside, for instance.

From the start, Byron Scott has been a leading candidate to get the job in the end. He makes sense as the rebuilding specialist he views himself to be and also someone experienced enough to offer a chance to win immediately.

Scott is clearly a fallback option—all the other NBA coaching vacancies have been filled except those of the Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who fired Scott in April 2013 after he went 64-166 (.278) in the post-LeBron era.

In one sense, it's discouraging that there isn't anyone out there the Lakers are excited about having as head coach (and it also speaks to how tempting it was for management just to let Mike D'Antoni stay on if he was going to be paid full fare next season anyway).

Nick Young's return to the Lakers this summer would suggest the team has different expectations than if it were to make a splash in free agency.
Nick Young's return to the Lakers this summer would suggest the team has different expectations than if it were to make a splash in free agency.Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Sitting around and doing nothing sure isn't as interesting as assuming LeBron wants to prop up 39-year-old Heat assistant David Fizdale, an L.A. native, as the next Lakers head coach. But the Lakers are fundamentally trying to be open-minded.

And one of the advantages of not being sold on one guy and one guy only is that the Lakers can afford to wait and see. They haven't found a compelling reason to hire someone, and as unsexy as it is, maybe a better marriage between the system and the talent-shy roster can result from the ambivalence.

That's the Lakers' not-made-for-TV show right now: The Indecision.

They can only bide their time, trying to stay true to their vision of not settling for less than the best with their cap space—and see if patience in their coaching search is a virtue to them in some small way.


Kevin Ding covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.

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