The once-proud Los Angeles Lakers turned in a disappointing 27-55 campaign in 2013-14 and certainly have their work cut out for them if they hope to make the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference this season.
The offseason has been relatively quiet after missing out on the big fish, although the team did add Carlos Boozer and trade for Jeremy Lin. It's not exactly LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony (or even the departed Pau Gasol for that matter), but August is a time for a glass-half-full approach.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the latest news from Los Angeles.
Byron Scott’s Expectations
New coach Byron Scott recently made an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show, and Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times passed along some of the key quotes:
I expect us to compete every night," said Byron Scott on radio Thursday to "The Dan Patrick Show." The Lakers are "going to play a tough, physical brand of basketball and we're going to play defense."
"It's going to be a tough road for us. We have a lot of work to do," he said. "I don't know how good we're going to be. I've got a lot of guys that I don't really know. I've got to get to know these guys and see what makes them tick -- but I've got one guy that I do know what makes him tick and that's a great piece to have.
It is worth mentioning that Scott would not go on record saying that his team would make the playoffs, which is probably for the best. There is no reason to put any added pressure on a team that already faces the expectations that come with wearing the Lakers jersey, even in a year when the talent simply doesn’t match up.
Still, Los Angeles will get Kobe Bryant back, which will immediately boost its postseason chances. He is one of the best players of all time and can be an elite scorer, even when he turns 36 later this month.
Just look for more perimeter jumpers and high-post moves in favor of attacking the rim.
Throw in Boozer’s potential for a double-double every night and the development of young Julius Randle, and the Lakers will have something of a post presence. Randle can score down low and outmuscle people for rebounds, while Boozer can stretch the floor with his mid-range jumper.
If Scott’s system leads to improvement on the defensive end, the Lakers may just surprise some people.
Kevin Durant Passes Kobe Bryant
After receiving 21.2% of the vote a year ago to the question, "Who is your favorite player in the league?" -- Bryant received 19.4% from the 2014 rookie class.
Durant led the field with 25.0% of the votes. Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James trailed Bryant at 12.5%, followed by Carmelo Anthony (8.3%) of the New York Knicks and Paul George (5.6%) of the Indiana Pacers and Kyrie Irving (5.6%) of the Cavaliers.
Bryant may have been passed by Kevin Durant, but it is a testament to his overall popularity and place within the game’s hierarchy that he is still so high on the list. Remember, he only played in six games during the 2013-14 campaign and is still ahead of LeBron James, who has dominated offseason headlines and is generally regarded as the best player in the league.
It will be interesting to watch going forward if this new crop of rookies (along with last year’s) mimics Bryant’s game in the same way that the Laker guard mimicked Michael Jordan’s. For context, there is an incredible video that has made the rounds on YouTube comparing the two greats, and Bryant himself even pointed out the circle of basketball life:
Bryant came into the league when Jordan was on the tail end of his career with the Chicago Bulls, and this year’s crop of rookies joins the NBA right when Bryant is likely entering the twilight of his career.
The young guys could do much worse than modeling their games after a five-time champion and one of the best players of all time.
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