Byron Scott Says Los Angeles Lakers 'Better Be Ready to Play Some Defense'

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2014

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Byron Scott is wasting little time in reminding the Los Angeles Lakers there are two sides to every basketball court.

The franchise officially hired the former Laker and 2007-08 Coach of the Year Saturday to replace Mike D'Antoni, per ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne. Shortly after news of Scott's arrival broke, Kobe Bryant reached out to his new partner in crime and received the head coach treatment right away: "He [Bryant] told me he was working out with Wesley [Johnson] and Nick [Young]," Scott said, via Shelburne. "I told them that sounded great, but 'they better be ready to play some defense.'"

"What is this 'defense' thing that you speak of?" Bryant asked promptly.

OK, fine. That didn't happen. But it might as well have.

Defense hasn't been in the Lakers' vocabulary over the last two seasons. They failed to finish better than 20th in defensive efficiency during the D'Antoni era, and they hit new lows last year as a bottom-three defensive outfit. If they're to have a hope of contending for more than another lottery finish, they'll need to improve.

And Scott has his work cut out for him there. The Lakers haven't done much, if anything, to improve their defensive standing this summer.

The Lakers aren't built to play defense.
The Lakers aren't built to play defense.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin, two of the Lakers' most prominent offseason additions, aren't known for their defense. They're actually recognized for not playing defense.

Julius Randle is a rookie who won't grasp NBA defensive concepts right away. Steve Nash—assuming he's even healthy—has long been considered a defensive liability. Bryant himself is pushing 36, and while he's played elite defense is the past, Grantland's Zach Lowe argued he began taking more and more plays off before rupturing his Achilles in 2013:

Again, he's a good defender when he wants to be, and he can still be a huge pain in the ass on the ball against top scorers. But playing top-notch on-ball defense on a few possessions per game does not qualify someone for an All-Defense honor, when all those other possessions of hideous off-ball defense exist.

Never one to lack effort, Bryant won't suddenly improve on the defensive end. At his age, given his newly formed injury history, he, like so many others on the Lakers roster, figures to be a defensive obstacle.

Can Scott find a way to ensure Bryant is both healthy and engaged on every play? Is he going to instill defensive purpose into Lin and Boozer?

Will Nick Young actually cross the timeline between offensive possessions?

Although Scott is valued for his defensive acumen, he's not a miracle-worker. There is only so much he can do with what he has. Right now, he has a defensive nightmare on his hands, and that's in addition to every other impediment. Forum Blue & Gold's Darius Soriano reminds us what Los Angeles' new coach will be facing:

It will be on him to decide how much or little Kobe Bryant plays, how much veterans should get time over younger players, and how to best develop the talent he has at his disposal. It will be on him to navigate expectations and balance short term success with long term goals and the overall health of the franchise moving forward. He will be that steward who has been given the keys at a time that, for all intents and purposes, may be one of the more important in recent franchise history.

Quite the pressure.

This is a pivotal time in Laker Land. They're trying to remain relevant while Bryant is still playing but are also attempting to secure a promising future. Scott is now a major part of that process.

Finding a way to coach defense into a team that isn't built to play it is only one of his many, many worries.