Byron Scott accepted the end of his 10-year Laker career with good humor and fond thoughts of the organization that afforded him the chance to be a member of three NBA championship teams.
Scott, 32, became an unrestricted free agent after the Lakers were eliminated by Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs. However, he had anticipated his departure since midseason, when a persistent ankle injury and the arrival of rookie shooting guard Anthony Peeler sliced into his playing time.
The acquisition of Doug Christie from Seattle in February and the selection of guard Nick Van Exel in the second round of the draft made Scott's expectation a reality, as he learned Tuesday in a meeting with General Manager Jerry West, who said the Lakers will not sign Scott.
"It is very difficult to leave a team after sharing so many memories with them, but Jerry West and I both have to think of the future," Scott said in a statement released by the club Wednesday. "The Laker organization must begin building a young team into a seasoned, veteran team. The Los Angeles fans and the Laker organization would like to have several years of a championship-caliber team playing in the Forum. In order to do that, great players like Anthony Peeler and Doug Christie must be given playing time in order to mature.
"I may not be playing for the Lakers in the coming season, but in my heart and in my dreams at night, I will be wearing my Laker jersey and running the floor at the Forum. Kareem will be kicking the ball out to me, Magic will be giving me a no-look pass, James Worthy will be calling for the ball and Coach Riley will be telling us another motivational story that his father told him. . . .
"I wish every member of the Laker organization, the loyal Laker fans throughout California and beyond the best of health and happiness. I'll see you in the Forum next season, not as a member of an opposing team, but simply as a longtime friend who now simply works out of town."
Scott played in only 58 games last season, totaling 1,677 minutes--his lowest total since his rookie season of 1983-84--and averaging 13.7 points. His career average is 16.0 points.
Scott, who was acquired in October, 1983, from San Diego in exchange for the popular Norm Nixon, leaves as the Lakers' seventh-leading scorer, with 12,254 points. He's seventh in games played (767), sixth in minutes played (24,093), ninth in assists (1,094) and third in steals (992).
The team's three-point field goal leader, with 522, Scott will also be remembered for failing to sink a potential game-winning three-pointer with two seconds left in regulation time of the fifth playoff game against the Suns in May. The game went into overtime and was won by Phoenix.
Although Scott said after that loss he believed he had played his last game as a Laker, West delayed a decision until he could watch Van Exel and Christie in summer league play. Their efforts reinforced West's conviction that the Lakers' course must be charted around younger players.
"This was a very, very difficult decision, one of the most difficult I've had to make," West said. "Byron has done a terrific job over the years for us. But in talking to the coaches about the direction we need to take, it was obvious what we had to do. I don't think there's any question Anthony Peeler and Doug Christie are the reason for (this decision)."
Scott joked that he would carefully consider his next employer because "I want to make sure I look good in the colors of the team uniform." He also mentioned someday returning to the Lakers.
"Maybe in five years or so, Coach Michael Cooper (now a special assistant to West), by then one of the elite coaches in the NBA, might appreciate an assistant coach who understands his 'unique' sense of humor," Scott said.
But according to his agent, Bob Woolf, Scott's playing days are far from over. Woolf said he has been contacted by three or four clubs interested in Scott, teams Woolf wouldn't identify beyond saying neither had players with NBA finals experience.
"The way I look at it, Byron is very much like Danny Ainge," Woolf said. "Here's a veteran who won three world championships, and Danny at the same age went to Portland and helped get them to the finals (in 1991-92) and went to Phoenix and they went to the finals. Byron is potentially very important to a team that needs a veteran to get to the finals."
An unrestricted free agent the Lakers want to retain--forward A.C. Green--remains unsigned. Green's agent, Marc Fleisher, said he rejected West's second contract offer, although West said he hadn't heard from Fleisher.
West also said he's making progress toward signing first-round draft pick George Lynch and is negotiating with unrestricted free agent Sedale Threatt and restricted free agents Elden Campbell and Tony Smith.
Byron Scott's Statistics
Career statistics of Byron Scott, who became a free agent Wednesday when Lakers announced they would not re-sign him.
Season G Reb. Asst. Pts. Avg. 1983-84 74 164 177 788 10.6 1984-85 81 210 244 1295 16.0 1985-86 76 189 164 1174 15.4 1986-87 82 286 281 1397 17.0 1987-88 81 333 335 1754 21.7 1988-89 74 302 231 1448 19.6 1989-90 77 242 274 1197 15.5 1990-91 82 246 177 1191 14.5 1991-92 82 310 226 1218 14.9 1992-93 58 134 157 792 13.7 Totals 767 2416 2266 12254 16.0
Season G Reb. Asst. Pts. Avg. 1983-84 20 37 34 171 8.6 1984-85 19 52 50 321 16.9 1985-86 14 55 42 224 16.0 1986-87 18 62 57 266 14.8 1987-88 24 100 60 470 19.6 1988-89 11 45 25 219 19.9 1989-90 9 37 23 121 13.4 1990-91 18 57 29 237 13.2 1991-92 4 10 14 75 18.8 1992-93 5 11 9 68 13.6 Totals 142 466 343 2172 15.3