Back when Kobe Bryant entered the NBA as a wide-eyed 18-year-old, he soaked in every word Byron Scott had to say.
Scott served as a mentor for Bryant during his rookie season with the Lakers, encouraging his unmatched work ethic, sharing nuances about game preparation and sharing tales of the “Showtime Era.”
That relationship marks one of the many reasons why Scott considers himself “the perfect fit” to coach the Lakers when he appeared on 710 ESPN’s Max and Marcellus to talk about his recent interview with general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive Jim Buss about the coaching vacancy. Scott’s connection with Bryant also gives him confidence that he will buy into his belief that he will need to change his game.
“He knows that. We have to sit down and talk about the minutes and things like that,” Scott said. “We have to come to an agreement. He knows me. I’m an old school type guy. I want him to understand that and I think he does understand. We communicate during the summer by text and I’ll run into him somewhere and we’ll talk a little bit more about basketball. The biggest thing is I respect the hell out of Kobe. I think he respects me. That’s the first hurdle you have to get past.”
Bryant initially touted his relationship with Mike D’Antoni, first as idolizing his ascension in Italian basketball and labeling him an “offensive genius” after playing for him as an assistant with two U.S. Olympic teams. Toward the end, Bryant tired of D’Antoni’s fast-paced system that put less of a premium on post play.
Bryant was essentially given free reign in the 2012-13 season, while his six games played this season amid two major injuries never opened up enough of a sample size to illustrate any such philosophical differences. But Bryant became concerned that D’Antoni’s offense would compromise his preference for a methodical tempo after experiencing two major injuries in the past year.
How Scott envisions Bryant in the offense is not entirely clear. But Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak recently envisioned Bryant primarily playing in the post.
“It will be a little bit of a rebuilding year, but you still have one of the best players who has ever played the game in Kobe,” said Scott. “I know him and his work ethic and how he is going about his business and getting ready for a season. I think he’ll come back with a vengeance. Will he be the Kobe of old? I don’t think anybody expects him to be the guy that will just dominate any game. But I think he’s going to be pretty close to it.”