Strange days for Byron Scott, who laughed at one unexpected episode but not the other.
His longtime friend Magic Johnson proclaimed Tuesday from New York that the Lakers should “lose every game” and go for a top draft pick. Scott smiled after hearing it before the Lakers defeated the Sacramento Kings, 98-95, at Staples Center.
He wasn’t so thrilled by the verbal thumbs-down Carlos Boozer gave him a day earlier after being benched for defensive reasons.
“He’s not the coach,” Scott said. “It’s my opinion” that matters.
Scott didn’t feel the need to clear the air with the 13-year veteran.
“I didn’t need to necessarily talk to Jeremy [Lin]. He came to me,” Scott said. “So, no, I don’t feel I need to clear the air.”
Lin, like Boozer, was demoted to second string before the Lakers’ 104-87 loss Sunday to New Orleans. Lin sought out Scott that morning and discussed in-depth what needed to be done to improve his game (Hint: defense). Lin took it hard, later calling it “one of the toughest situations I’ve been in.”
Boozer went with a different approach.
He and Scott did not discuss the demotion and Boozer failed to talk to reporters after Sunday’s game. He made them wait more than 45 minutes after Monday’s practice before disagreeing with Scott’s defense-drive decision.
“That’s just his opinion. I have a different opinion. I’ll keep it to myself,” said Boozer, whose string of 569 consecutive starts ended Sunday.
Meanwhile, Johnson made Scott’s job potentially more difficult with his comments at an appearance in New York for a memorabilia retailer.
“I hope the Lakers lose every game because if you’re going to lose, lose. I’m serious,” Johnson said, according to Newsday. “If you’re going to lose, you have to lose, because you can’t be in the middle of the pack. You either have to be great or you have to be bad to get a good pick.”
Johnson is an unpaid vice president for the Lakers. Scott is paid to make the Lakers competitive. He politely disagreed with Johnson’s view.
“That’s easy to say that [for Johnson], but when you’re behind the scenes and when you’re in the trenches and you’re coaching, that’s not something that you want to do,” Scott said. “I don’t think our players look at it that way. We’ve got to try to go out there and win every game possible. If we lose games, it’s one thing. But to go out and try to lose, that’s a different story. And I think that sends a message to those guys in there that, again, it’s going back to that losing mentality.
“We don’t want to create that here.”
Scott was asked if he would send Johnson a text. “Yeah. LOL,” he said, later adding he might call Johnson as well.
The Lakers retain their draft pick only if it is among the top five after the lottery in May. If not, they owe it to Phoenix for the Steve Nash trade.
“I know Earv and how competitive he is, and I understand where he’s coming from: Lose every game and hopefully you get the No.1 pick,” Scott said. “That doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to get the No.1 pick.”
Johnson sat in the front row for Scott’s introductory news conference in July, a show of support that the Lakers made the right move by hiring him.
Scott said he hadn’t spoken to Johnson in a while and wasn’t worried that Johnson’s comments would become a motto for the season.
“That’s really kind of the last thing I’m worried about right now, is fans saying ‘Lose every game’ because Magic said it,” Scott said.
The Lakers (6-16) did fine in Scott’s eyes Tuesday even though Sacramento played without leading scorer and rebounder DeMarcus Cousins.
Kobe Bryant had 32 points and sparked a fourth-quarter rally that ended with a missed three-point attempt at the buzzer by Nik Stauskas.
Follow Mike Bresnahan on Twitter @Mike_Bresnahan