Byron Scott is Fired, But the Problem Remains

This will be the third coaching change in a matter of four years.  Judging by this statement alone, you’d think I’d be talking about some low-rate, bottom-dweller franchise like the one in Sacramento.  Nope.  I am talking about a bottom-dweller from the state of California, but they reside a little further south.  Yep, the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers are the storied franchise turned irrelevant at the hands of one man.  As Jim Buss took over the helm from his deceased father, he has proved nothing other than that he is incompetent.  At a certain point, when you’re running a franchise like the Lakers, which is a franchise that has glamorous free agent appeal, a history of success, and the financial capability as well as the cap expert GM Mitch Kupchak to pretty much manipulate the team’s cap space in whatever way possible to ensure the team is running at optimal speed.

But, Jim Buss has leveraged none of the sort.  And if he’s tried to, he’s failed miserably.

He attempted at running the Kobe and Pau show early on, but that proved to not be enough fire power to get it down.  He then traded away all of his draft capital and his long-time pride and joy, Andrew Bynum and brought in an aging Steve Nash to lead an offense that would feature Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. All seemed to be going well when the team fired Mike Brown, who Jim Buss had chosen to replace Phil Jackson.

As the team fired Brown, a coach came calling.  He, in essence, said this: I have won 5 championships with Kobe Bryant, do well with point guards who can shoot the outside shot (like Nash can), know how to utilize big men (the Lakers had Pau and Dwight, so), and have taken a group of phenomenal players and turned them into a true team that can compete for championships many times before.  In fact, I did it five times for this franchise when I won you championships, you can see them in your office, Jim.

That’s right.  Phil Jackson wanted to come back to coach the Lakers and likely would have returned them back to prominence once again.  And Jim Buss screwed that one up too.  Instead of catering to his new big man and Kobe Bryant, who adored Phil for the majority of his career, he chose to cater to his almost-40-year-old point guard by hiring a guy who ran an offense predicated on speed in D’Antoni.

After that disastrous season played itself out, the Lakers lost Howard in the offseason, had the tattered remains of an old, ineffective Nash, Kobe Bryant, and Pau Gasol. After another mediocre season, Pau Gasol went out the door as well.

No talent. No draft picks.  And oh, no signings either.  The plan to attract free agents fell flat every time.  Aldridge, Anthony, Rondo, and so on were not attracted to a franchise that was incompetent at it’s peak.

But no worries, we made our desire to keep Swaggy P known and we did just that.  So all is good.

And after all those failures, the Lakers reverted to doing what they almost never do: build through the draft.  They have added guys like Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and DeAngelo Russell. These guys may be successful in the future, but may also keep the Lakers from using their free agent dollars to sign talent, and then may end up being mediocre.  This is the standstill the Lakers will face when they evaluate how aggressive they should be in free agency.  They’ve kinda backed themselves into a corner where they have to see how these guys develop and won’t be able to judge that if the players are usurped by new free agents.

So, with Kobe Bryant retired, the Lakers have next to nothing left.  They have some young talent that could pan out.  Outside of that, they have one genius in the front office (Kupchak) who’s being told what to do by a guy who has no clue what he’s doing.  It’d be like having Mike Brown tell Kobe Bryant how to play basketball… Oh wait.  We did that.

Anyway, here’s my point.  Sure, you can be happy that we’re moving onto Byron Scott.  I won’t even use any arguments that Byron Scott didn’t have sufficient talent to have a competitive team (he didn’t) because that’s beside the point.

The point is that firing Byron Scott is meaningless.  At some point, Lakers fans must realize that firing head coaches doesn’t do any good if the same guy who mistakenly hired the previous head coaches and also mismanaged, well, the entire franchise, is going to be the same guy who will hire the next head coach and, well, manage the franchise this offseason once again.

Lakers fans, your problem isn’t Byron Scott.  It’s not Kobe Bryant retiring.  It’s not Roy Hibbert or any of the other projects we’ve had at center.  It’s not DeAngelo Russell or Julius Randle not developing.  Your problem is that Jim Buss has done the impossible: he’s made the Los Angeles Lakers the second most attractive franchise to join in Los Angeles and has turned the franchise from perennial contender for a championship to perennial contender for the number one draft pick.


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