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Lakers' Byron Scott is in it for the long haul with this team

With the Lakers in the midst of their worst season, coach looks forward to a busy summer

CLEVELAND — Byron Scott was back in Ohio, where he got fired less than two years ago for not living up to expectations.

The Cleveland Cavaliers let him go after the 2012-13 season with one year left on his contract.

The Lakers are in the midst of their worst season ever, but Scott isn't concerned in the least about his job. No need. He has two more guaranteed years and then a team option in 2017-18.

The turnaround couldn't seem further away for a team that fell to 13-38 after a 120-105 loss Sunday to Cleveland. Ever the optimist, Scott has tried to remain upbeat.

"You can only go by what you hear. I'm trusting the Buss family because I've known them guys for a long time," he said Sunday, also mentioning General Manager Mitch Kupchak. "I've known Mitch for a long time. They said, 'Hey, these first couple of years might be a little rough, are you OK with that?' I said, 'Well, are you guys OK with that? That's the biggest question.' And they said absolutely. So I'm in it for the long haul.

"We know next summer's a big summer for us, and we're looking forward to it."

The Lakers will have about $24 million to spend on free agency in July and project to have at least $25 million in 2016 when Kobe Bryant's contract comes off the books.

Scott gambled when he took the Cavaliers job in 2010 that LeBron James could be persuaded to stay. When he bolted for Miami, the franchise was in immediate rebuild mode.

The Cavaliers went 19-63 that season (2010-11), not unlike the present-day Lakers, who have seen Dwight Howard take off for Houston and Pau Gasol leave for Chicago in recent summers.

"It's the same process, to be honest with you. We're going through the same thing right now, trying to just get through the season," Scott said. "All the injuries we've been getting lately has been crazy. Just trying to build a different culture here."

And that would entail?

"For me, it's just sticking to my guns and my beliefs. I still believe very firmly that defense still wins championships," Scott said. "You've got to preach that and get guys to buy into that."

If nothing else, he's got warmer weather every day.

"Being back in L.A. for two years, I guess your blood gets a little thin again," he said jokingly.

Smith affected many

Two prominent former Lakers remembered Dean Smith fondly after having played for the legendary North Carolina coach, who died Saturday at 83 after battling dementia for years.

Kupchak considered Smith "one of the most influential people in my life."

"His influence on my life didn't end when I left Chapel Hill, as he was a trusted and valuable advisor to me when I became a player, then an executive in the NBA," he said in a statement.

Kupchak played at North Carolina for four years, becoming an All-American his senior season in 1976.

James Worthy played for Smith from 1980 to 1982, leaving North Carolina after being an All-American as a junior and becoming the top overall pick in the NBA draft.

"There are so many things I could say about Coach Dean Smith, but simply put, he is the greatest man I've ever known," Worthy said on Twitter.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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