Byron Scott wouldn’t go on record as saying the Lakers will make the playoffs this coming season, but he vowed the team will surprise some of the naysayers.
“I expect us to compete every night,” said Byron Scott on radio Thursday to “The Dan Patrick Show." The Lakers are “going to play a tough, physical brand of basketball and we’re going to play defense.”
Scott, who won three titles as part of the Showtime-era Lakers, was recently hired to replace Mike D’Antoni, who resigned in April. Under D’Antoni, the team gave up 109.2 points a game.
The Lakers will get Kobe Bryant back after the All-Star sat out all but six games in the 2013-14 season because of knee and Achilles’ injuries.
The team has since added Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and rookie Julius Randle.
Scott acknowledged that the coming season will be a challenge.
“It’s going to be a tough road for us. We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “I don’t know how good we’re going to be. I’ve got a lot of guys that I don’t really know. I’ve got to get to know these guys and see what makes them tick -- but I’ve got one guy that I do know what makes him tick and that’s a great piece to have.”
If Bryant can return to form, the Lakers may be competitive -- despite hitting age 36 on Aug. 23. As a rookie in the 1996-97 season, Bryant was Scott’s teammate. The two are reuniting 18 years later.
Scott isn’t worried about motivating Bryant.
“I don’t think Kobe needs anybody to motivate him, because he has a pretty keen sense on what he wants to do and how it wants it done,” said Scott. “He has a one-track mind and that’s winning championships.”
Scott continued, “I know what it takes to get there, just like he does. It’s a pretty easy sell when you’re talking to him about winning championships.”
The challenge will be for the Lakers to make the leap from last year’s 27-55 debacle to true playoff contention. That might not be a Bryant-Scott issue but a fix only the front office can make by acquiring talent.
Perhaps that process will speed up for the Lakers if Randle, drafted with the seventh overall pick in June’s draft, can prove to be a high-impact player despite his youth (he’s 19).
“The young kid is very gifted. Offensively, he can rebound the ball, he can score in the post, he’s probably got 15-foot range. He handles the ball extremely well for a big man,” said Scott. “I look at him as Zach Randolph but more athletic. I think in a few years he’s going to be a monster, once he really learns what the NBA is all about.”
Bryant has only two years left on his contract, and his window for a sixth title may be rapidly closing.
Unless General Manager Mitch Kupchak can make an unexpected trade to bring in talent, Bryant’s championship hopes may rest on the inexperienced shoulders of the team’s Kentucky rookie.