NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Lakers got the right man for the job in Byron Scott: — It absolutely took forever for the Los Angeles Lakers to find what they feel is the best fit for their new coach. And there’s good reason for it. Had things played out differently in free agency, LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony might have had a say (along with Kobe Bryant, of course) in who replaced Mike D’Antoni. That’s not saying it would not have been Byron Scott. But there is no guarantee. Ultimately, as Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com points out, the Lakers got the right man for the job:
It was no secret that if they ended up pulling off a coup and landing LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony or both, they wanted to entice the superstars to come by letting them have a say in who would coach them.
All the while, however, they kept Scott in the loop, bringing him back for a second interview June 10 prior to free agency and then again for a third talk July 16 after the Anthony/James dream had died and L.A. instead filled up its roster with the likes of Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis.
Which brings us to the second question that needs to be asked: Why Byron?
It wasn’t just about his ties to the Showtime era, but that surely helped. It wasn’t just that he was around the team all last season as an analyst for the Lakers’ television station, Time Warner Cable SportsNet, and had an intimate knowledge of what went down, but that helped too.
The Lakers franchise also wanted to establish a clear defensive identity after being atrocious on that end of the court last season, and Scott’s credentials include a strong defensive-minded reputation.
But really, the Scott hire comes down to one man: Kobe Bryant. L.A. invested close to $50 million in Bryant over the next two seasons when he’ll be 36 and a 19-year veteran and 37 and a 20-year veteran.
Despite all that’s gone wrong in Laker Land since Phil Jackson retired in 2011, Bryant still remains as a box office draw and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Whichever coach the Lakers decided on would have to mesh well personalitywise with Bryant first and foremost and, beyond that, play a system that would help Bryant continue to be productive even as Father Time is taking his toll.
It was no accident that Bryant publicly endorsed Scott for the job during his youth basketball camp in Santa Barbara, California, earlier this month.
“He was my rookie mentor when I first came into the league,” Bryant said. “So I had to do things like get his doughnuts and run errands for him and things like that. We’ve had a tremendously close relationship throughout the years. So, obviously I know him extremely well. He knows me extremely well. I’ve always been a fan of his.”
No. 2: No Love leaves USAB roster vulnerable: — Was Kevin Love the linchpin to USA Basketball’s summer in Spain? If so, that’s news to Kevin Durant, the true backbone of the team this summer. Love’s decision Saturday to remove himself from the mix because of all the trade uncertainty surrounding him this summer and potentially into the start of the regular season creates a dicey situation for the folks at USA Basketball, however, as Sam Amick of USA Today Sports writes:
Team USA is getting more vulnerable by the day.
With the Saturday announcement that Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love won’t take part in the FIBA Basketball World Cup tournament in Spain, the task of securing an automatic bid for the 2016 Olympics and defending its gold medal gets a whole lot harder yet again, as LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trailblazers), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs), Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers) also bowed out recently and left Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo lamenting the unwelcome challenge of reworking his shrinking roster.
Team USA’s six-day training camp begins in Las Vegas on Monday, with the 18-man roster set to be shaved down to 12 players thereafter. Team USA has exhibition games in Chicago, New York and Gran Canaria, Spain, in August leading up to the FIBA opener against Finland on Aug. 30 in Bilbao, Spain. If Team USA wins the gold as it did in the FIBA tournament in 2010, it would not have to take part in the qualifying tournament scheduled for next summer.
This “broken record” problem of players pulling out, as Colangelo referred to it in an interview with USA TODAY Sports on Thursday, means there will be an unexpected opportunity for someone else who is already in the mix. While Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans) and Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets) are the only conventional power forwards remaining on the 18-man Team USA roster, coach Mike Krzyzewski has plenty of talented options if he chooses to take the unconventional route.
No. 3: Celtics and Turner find perfect fit in each other: — Evan Turner had to wait a while for his free-agent fortunes to play out. That’s not usually the case for a No. 2 pick in a Draft … any Draft. But sometimes good things really do come to those who wait. And Turner and the Celtics found the perfect fit in each other, according to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:
Although the Celtics are in rebuilding mode, with expectations lowered and assets being gathered, team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is able to take chances he wasn’t afforded during the Big Three Era.
When he made the deal last year to send Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn — a trade whose benefits appear endless — Ainge began toying with the Celtics’ roster, bringing in players with either soiled reputations, tradeable contracts, or the ability to blossom.
Such is the case with Evan Turner, who agreed to what is believed to be a two-year contract last week after being a free agent afterthought. Turner, the second overall pick in the 2010 draft, was maligned in Philadelphia from the start because of his inability to become a game-breaker. He barely played for the Indiana Pacers after a midseason trade, leaving him at a career crossroads before the Celtics offered relief.
Remember, the Celtics revived the careers of Kris Humphries, who earned a three-year deal with the Washington Wizards, and Jerryd Bayless, who is close to a two-year agreement with the Milwaukee Bucks following a solid stint in Boston. There doesn’t appear to be much to lose for Ainge in this Turner transaction.
Turner’s agent believes it will be a successful marriage. “What it points out for me,” agent David Falk said, “is the other team we strongly considered [signing with] — the coach is someone I have tremendous respect for and he made a comment to me while we were talking about Evan: ‘A player, unless he’s a superstar, is only as good as his coach thinks he is.’ I believe that Brad Stevens thinks that Evan has the ability. He’s got the skill set and a very high basketball IQ to be a very good player.”
No. 4: Finding Popovich in Oregon: — Talk about a strange summer work. Chasing down San Antonio Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich during the afterglow of winning yet another NBA title isn’t nearly as difficult as you might expect, if you live in Oregon. John Canzano of the Oregonian did just that at a private wine event:
A soccer television crew for NBC that was dining at the Heathman Restaurant a couple of Thursdays ago provided the first confirmed visual sighting of Gregg Popovich’s summer visit to Oregon.
The San Antonio Spurs coach walked with a cane. He had dinner with a couple in their 30s. A friend in that broadcast crew texted, asking me, “Would he be in PDX for any reason?”
I’d been tipped off that Popovich would be in Oregon weeks before. Over coffee on a sunny day, screenwriter and friend Mike Rich remarked to me that he knew Popovich might make an appearance at a private wine event in the Willamette Valley.
“You should try to track Pop down and see what happens,” Rich said.
This is how “Finding Popovich” was born.
This dispels the myth that all Rich does is write epic film scripts, play with his grandchildren, think about fantasy football and root for Oregon State. He’s also a very gifted assigning editor, in part, because I think if Rich weren’t so busy being Mike Rich, he’d have grabbed a notebook and a pen himself and tracked down the Spurs coach.
Popovich ate dinner at the Heathman. Others in the restaurant didn’t approach him or make a fuss. His table wasn’t surrounded by basketball fans who wanted face time with the man who is not only the longest tenured active coach in the NBA, but also every other major American sports league. In fact, the cane probably got more attention than the man using it.
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