Can the Lakers rebound from last year's injury-plagued, defenseless travesty of a 27-win season under Mike D'Antoni?
It would be hard for any coach not to do better than that, but Byron Scott is the right hire to help get the Lakers back on track.
“[We'll] play hard every single night, and we’ll come ready to defend," Scott said Tuesday at his introductory news conference at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo.
Scott preached the words so many fans wanted and needed to hear, after the Lakers gave up 109.2 points a game last season -- second-worst in the NBA.
“The one thing I told [General Manager] Mitch [Kupchak] and [owner/executive] Jim [Buss] at our last meeting, was that I thought they put a roster together that will be very competitive," Scott said. "The main thing I have to do right away is establish ourselves as a defensive basketball team."
The Lakers, as currently constructed, do not look like a playoff team in the Western Conference but Scott has a key ally in Kobe Bryant to help lead the charge.
A bounce-back year from Bryant (felled last season by knee and Achilles' injuries) can give Scott and the Lakers a chance to win on almost any night.
Bryant once played alongside Scott, in 1996-97, Bryant's NBA rookie season and Scott's last as a player. The two have remained close through the years.
"I’m looking forward to coaching Kobe. I know his drive, and I know his will and determination," Scott, 53, said. "I think we’re on the same page as far as how we think about this game and how it should be played. So it’s going to be fun. He has to be a little patient."
Of course, Bryant, 35, is anything but patient. As long as he and Scott are of one mind, pushing the team's younger players to learn how to play hard and with discipline, the squad will improve throughout the season.
"This organization is all about championships. Period," Scott said. "We don’t look at Western Conference finals, Western Conference championships. We look at championships."
Scott, who won three titles as a Lakers player during the Showtime '80s, may understand what the franchise means to the city and the NBA, but the roster just might not be there yet.
"Guys have to understand that that’s what it’s going to take and they have to be held accountable," Scott said. "But I like the roster that Mitch has put together. It’s a little bit of some youth and some experienced guys and I’m looking forward to working with them.”
If there's a player Scott needs to get the most out if, it's rookie forward Julius Randle, whom the Lakers drafted out of Kentucky in June with the seventh overall pick.
"I’m not going to put expectations on young fella like that. I think he has to come in here and play. He just has to come in here and play, learn the system. and I think the sky’s the limit because he’s definitely very talented," Scott said. "To get him at seven is a steal. He was one of the top three. I love his attitude. I love the way he attacks the basket. He brings some things to the table that can definitely help us."
Scott comes back to a warm welcome in Los Angeles, with former teammates Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes on hand in support on Tuesday.
His Lakers legacy will give him breathing room never afforded D'Antoni, or his predecessor Mike Brown, but good will typically lasts only until a team's first losing streak.
If he can get his players to defend as promised, Scott will keep the fans on his side, even through the struggles ahead.
The Lakers have an imperfect roster, but they finally have a coach in place with the authority and discipline to help restore a franchise that has lost its way.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun