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The Biggest Takeaways from the Los Angeles Lakers' 2014-15 Regular Season

David Murphy@@davem234Featured ColumnistApril 20, 2015

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott, left, talks to Jordan Clarkson during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Tuesday, April 7, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 105-100. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Some of the takeaways from the Los Angeles Lakers’ recently concluded 2014-15 campaign are painfully obvious.

The prime example is a season that went from bad to worse, beginning with an unfathomable number of injuries and ending with the team’s worst record in franchise history at 21-61.

There are also impressions offering glimpses of hope, while still others point to areas where a strategic shift could pay dividends. 

But one thing is certain: For a proud organization that has ebbed ever further from its glory days, change is not only welcome, it is an imperative.

The youth movement is here to stay

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

There are only four Lakers with guaranteed contracts. Kobe Bryant will be 37 when he returns next season after a long injury layoff, while Nick Young will be 30 when training camp rolls around.

And then things start skewing younger. Julius Randle will return at age 20 after missing all but 14 minutes of his rookie season with a broken leg, while Ryan Kelly, 24, will be back for his third NBA campaign.

Meanwhile, management is sure to pick up the option on 22-year-old Jordan Clarkson, the rookie point guard out of Missouri who started 38 games this season. After his exit interview, the second-round wunderkind talked about his motivation and desire for continued improvement.

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“I’m not satisfied with what I did this year,” said Clarkson, per Lakers.com. “I’m just trying to come back and be better, for sure.”

Mark Medina @MarkG_Medina

Byron Scott mentioned Jordan Clarkson, Tarik Black and Ed Davis as "young guys" he liked this season

The Lakers also have options on two undrafted rookies who performed well—big man Tarik Black, 23, and shooting guard Jabari Brown, 22, who was Clarkson’s fellow backcourt starter at Mizzou.

Plus there is Ed Davis, who, at 25, had his best year yet in the NBA. The energetic power forward will opt out of his $1.1 million option but would like to re-sign for the long term.

”This is where I want to be,” Davis said after his exit interview, per Lakers.com. “Hopefully I’m back next year.”

The Lakers also have the potential of three draft picks, as well as significant cap room during free agency. But given the rebuilding movement, it seems unlikely the team will load up on expensive veterans with short shelf lives.

“You work hard to create a future,” general manager Mitch Kupchak said Thursday per Lakers.com. “Whether it’s with draft picks or the opportunity to make a trade or free-agent dollars. And you don’t want to give it away just because you have it.”

The need for an offensive coordinator

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Byron Scott was once a member of the Showtime Lakers—a team known for its fast-break offense. But after taking over as head coach in L.A., he installed a hybrid Princeton offense with a slow, deliberate pace.

The new Lakers coach is also big on defensive responsibility and hired like-minded assistants—Paul Pressey, Jim Eyen and Mark Madsen. But the overall lack of creativity starts at the top, and Scott’s rigid style stands in stark contrast to those who are willing to expand the playbook. 

A case in point is a certain rookie coach who has surpassed all expectations.

When Steve Kerr was hired by the Golden State Warriors, many wondered if he would use the triangle system he learned as a player under Phil Jackson. Kerr quickly hired fellow Jackson disciple Luke Walton as an assistant and associate head coach Alvin Gentry, who has often used elements of the Princeton offense. Kerr also hired Ron Adams, known for his defensive schemes.

But the self-effacing Kerr was also hiring bright individuals who didn’t necessarily feel compelled to fall in lockstep. And, he approached his job with a forward-thinking philosophy and encyclopedic knowledge of the game. Those qualities were present at his first job interview with the Warriors, as explained by Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated:

First was the Power Point presentation, which by then ran 16 pages. It began with a section titled “Why I’m Ready To Be A Head Coach” and included segments on leadership, relationships, analytics and everything from dress code to dieticians to yoga instructors to sleep specialists. Kerr also included detailed thoughts on Warriors players, including potential rotation changes.

Scott’s rotations this season can be largely chalked up to injuries and the need to develop prospects. But when it comes to matters such as analytics, the veteran coach is clearly mired in the past. Asked about the data-rich methodology, per Bill Oram of the Orange County Register, Scott replied: "I think we've got a few guys who believe in it. I'm not one of them."

Chris Herring @Herring_NBA

I legitimately feel like Byron Scott could walk into a comedy club, discuss his basketball philosophy, and have the entire audience rollin.

Whatever strategies a coach uses, there should also be a willingness to be flexible. Some of the players’ best moments this season came when they were given a modicum of freedom, using drag screens in transition to create early offense opportunities and sprinkling in pick-and-roll actions.

But Scott’s not a big fan of pick-and-roll, describing it, per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, as: “Everybody is stationary and it’s easy to guard.”

For whatever specifics one wants to point to, one thing is certain—Scott needs a more innovative voice on the bench and also has to be willing to listen.

Lakers have an on-floor leadership vacuum

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

With Steve Nash out for the season and Bryant missing all but 35 games, it soon became apparent that the team lacked the on-court leadership necessary to seal the deal. Yes, the Lakers were in a number of close fourth-quarter situations, but they didn’t have the ammunition to prevail.

This summer, management has to sign a player with the type of on-floor leadership needed in crucial game moments.

These are the additions that are the hardest to come by, whether through free agency or a trade. The Lakers may find themselves looking at other teams who also didn’t make the playoffs—losing organizations can sometimes be the most willing trade partners.

Mike Trudell @LakersReporter

Mitch Kupchak: "It can get better quickly. We can be in the hunt quickly."

The Lakers have had too many injuries in recent years and have lost far too many games. Management has rolled through coaches and has yet to find anyone who can establish a cohesive voice and vision.

From the hope that young and relatively untested young players will blossom into true stars, to the need for additional leadership on-court and along the sideline, this much is obvious—change must come.

And that is the biggest takeaway from a season that trended in the wrong direction from the very start.

The consequences of losing seasons and poor past decisions are looming large.

The Lakers have to get up off the mat and get things right this summer.

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