Lakers’ Byron Scott questions team effort in 101-94 loss to Knicks

The cast of characters settled into this city in different eras and witnessed a few events that soon became customary.

They saw purple and gold streamers fall from the rafters. They popped champagne. They soaked in the warm weather, the deafening cheers and the adoring crowds during the championship parades.

Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant won all five of their NBA championships together here. The Showtime Lakers also won five NBA titles with a supporting cast that included Kurt Rambis (four championships) and Byron Scott (three rings). Rambis later helped Jackson win four of his five NBA championships with the Lakers as a key assistant.

Those men witnessed something far different in the Lakers’ 101-94 loss to the New York Knicks on Thursday on Staples Center. Scott oversaw the Lakers (17-46) drop their sixth game in the last seven contests as the they march toward the worst record in franchise history. Bryant could only watch from the sideline as he nursed a season-ending right shoulder injury. New York president (Jackson), head coach (Fisher) and assistant (Rambis) experienced temporary elation amid the a rare Knicks victory, their 13-51 record boasting the NBA’s worst record.

All of which prompted Scott to unload his dissatisfaction with the team at a much faster rate than when he made key outside shots with the Lakers’ Showtime teams.

“This got away before the game even started,” Scott said. “Our mindset was nowhere it should have been.”

Where was it?

“We were selfish as a basketball team,” Scott said. “A lot of our guys came in looking at New York and thinking this was going to be an easy win.”
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Lakers’ Byron Scott offers sympathy for Derek Fisher’s struggles coaching the Knicks

New York Knicks head coach Derek Fisher will face his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, Sunday at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

New York Knicks head coach Derek Fisher will face his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, Sunday at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The two men once became pretty accustomed toward hoisting up NBA trophies with their hands and flashing championship rings on their fingers. But there Lakers coach Byron Scott and New York Knicks coach Derek Fisher stood on the same sideline two months ago sharing another thing in common that hardly makes either proud.

Both of their respective teams rank among the worst in the NBA. So after holding Fisher in high esteem since mentoring him his rookie season 19 years ago, Scott offered him some support.

“I told him, ‘Hang in there,’” Scott recalled. “‘I’ve been there and I know exactly what you’re going through and it’s going to get better.’”

Things got better for one night as the Knicks cruised to a double-digit victory over the Lakers. But that’s not saying much. The Lakers (17-46) enter Thursday’s game against the New York Knicks (12-51) at Staples Center owning the NBA’s fourth-worst record. The Knicks have the NBA’s worst record, making this game providing only implications only for maximizing their chances in striking it rich at the NBA Draft lottery.

There also remains intrigue because the Knicks feature plenty of former Lakers. Phil Jackson is in his first season as the Knicks president after winning five of his 11 NBA championships coaching the Lakers. Fisher is coaching the Knicks after winning all five of his NBA titles under Jackson’s Lakers. Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons and Rasheed Hazzard both represented Fisher’s current assistants and part of Jackson’s previous coaching staffs.

“It says the Knicks know exactly what they’re doing,” Scot said. “You have Phil, one of the greatest coaches, if not the greatest coach to coach this game. You have one of the great winners in the game in Derek Fisher as head coach. So I think anytime they’re plucking people from the organization, that says a lot about the organization.”

Perhaps. But the Knicks have not received a quick investment on their return.

The Knicks went through a stretch this season when they lost a franchise-record 16 consecutive games. Carmelo Anthony became limited this season on an injured left knee before shutting down after the NBA All-Star break. In a move that sparked nearly universal criticism, Jackson traded All-Star center Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks last offseason for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert and Shane Larkin. Jackson later waived Dalembert and traded J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in a three-team deal with Oklahoma City and Cleveland, a move that secured them a 2019 second-round pick and loads of cap space for next offseason. The Knicks also bought out Amare Stoudemire’s contract.

“I’m wondering if he’s doing the same things I did my rookie year [coaching] where he’s throwing things at chalkboards and screaming and yelling and kicking chairs,” said Scott, recalling his first year coaching the former New Jersey Nets in 2000. “I think he’s probably a lot calmer than I was. He had the Zen Master here. I didn’t have that calmness about me my rookie year as a coach. I kind of let everything out.”

Not Fisher.

“A patience level is good with the appropriate things,” Fisher said. “I’m not going to be patient with a lack of effort or lack of intensity or guys not being committed to the team. But I’ll be patient with the process we’re going through. We’re just getting that started. I’m not on a combustible level because we’re struggling right now. Everything has a purpose. We’ll look back on this and know there were certain things we had to endure.”

Scott believes that will happen, gushing that Fisher’s toughness and intelligence as an unproven Lakers rookie will eventually translate into the coaching realm. Fisher cemented a legacy in his 18-year NBA career, the majority with the Lakers, that entailed hitting clutch shots, providing hustle plays and exerting locker room leadership. But this marks Fisher’s first NBA head-coaching stint and he had no previous coaching experience at any level elsewhere.

“I knew whatever Fish wanted to do, he’d be able to do it,” Scott said. “Whether it’s coaching, front office, whatever he wanted to do when basketball was over and his playing days were over, I knew he would accomplish that.”

Scott then shared tales about Fisher’s unyielding practice intensity with him and fellow rookie Kobe Bryant.

“I witnessed them going at each other, but never to the point where it almost got to blows,” Scott said. But if you ask Kobe, he respects Derek as much as he respects anybody because of the fact they’re so much alike.”

So much alike that Scott maintained that the Lakers’ second unit that featured himself, Fisher and Bryant usually won in pickup games against the Lakers’ starters that included the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones.

“All I can remember was Nick and Eddie saying, ‘Why don’t you guys take it easy today?’” Scott said laughing. “They were always getting after them, and a lot of that was D-Fish and Kobe. I know when we started the game, they’d be beating us like six or eight points because we had nobody for Shaq. As soon as he went out, we destroyed them.”

If only turning around the Knicks could be as instantaneous.

“I don’t know if you can put a timeline on building something successful and sustainable,” Fisher said. “We live in a society where things are more instant now than they used to be. But becoming great is not an overnight thing. I don’t know if we can somehow get to next season and say we’re supposed to win a championship. We’re at the very bottom and at the ground level here in the type of work we need to do to turn this thing around. We have to continue to evaluate everything that we’re doing as an organization to make sure those things are a priority as well.”

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Lakers’ Jeremy Lin, Wesley Johnson, Jabari Brown available tonight vs. New York

Lakers#17 Jeremy Lin shoots, but can not hit a 3-pointer against Nuggets#3 Ty Lawson and Nuggets#00 Darrell Arthur in the 4th quarter. The Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 106-96 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA February 10, 2015.  (Photos by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

Lakers#17 Jeremy Lin shoots, but can not hit a 3-pointer against Nuggets#3 Ty Lawson and Nuggets#00 Darrell Arthur in the 4th quarter. The Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 106-96 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA February 10, 2015. (Photos by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

Lakers guard Jeremy Lin and forward Wesley Johnson will play in Thursday’s game against the New York Knicks (12-51) at Staples Center despite missing Wednesday’s practice because of different injuries.

But the ailments to Lin (thigh contusion) and Johnson (calf) healed enough to go through Thursday’s morning shootaround.

“I didn’t say any ill affects from yesterday,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “So I think they’re both fine.”

The Lakers (16-47) will feature Jordan Clarkson (point guard), Wayne Ellington (shooting guard), Johnson (small forward), Jordan Hill (power forward) and Tarik Black (center) as starters, a unit that has started the past two games. But Scott will likely add one wrinkle.

Scott said there is a “pretty good chance” guard Jabari Brown will make his first appearance since the Lakers signed him to a 10-day contract on Tuesday. Brown played for the Lakers’ Development League affiliate, the D-Fenders, and led the league in scoring (24.4 points per game). Brown will likely have “spot minutes” to give the Lakers’ backcourt some rest, including Clarkson, Lin and Ellington.

“If I can alleviate the minutes from each one of those guys, and that’s probably 15 minutes for Jabari, that will keep them that much fresher,” Scott said.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson continuing workouts with Steve Nash

Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson, right, goes up for a shot as Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas, of Lithuania, defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson, right, goes up for a shot as Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas, of Lithuania, defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Lakers finally fielded nearly a full roster.

Kobe Bryant wore a Lakers jersey. So did Julius Randle. Nick Young temporarily forgot about the pain in his left knee and strapped on his Lakers gear, too.

Too bad this reunion did not take place in an actual game or else the Lakers (17-46) may have entered Thursday’s game against the New York Knicks (12-50) at Staples Center in much better starts. Instead, this all centered around the Lakers posing for the team photo for the 2014-15 season where everyone showed up.

Well, except for one person.

Steve Nash.

The Lakers veteran guard has kept his distance from the franchise after the team ruled him out in late October for the season amid chronic back issues. There has marked one exception, though. Nash has spent the past two months working with Lakers rookie guard Jordan Clarkson.

“It was great, especially for him to reach out, because he didn’t have to do that,” Clarkson said on Wednesday after practice at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “Just being able to learn from somebody like that, it’s just a great feeling.”
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Lakers’ Jeremy Lin (thigh), Wesley Johnson (calf) misses Wednesday’s practice

Los Angeles Laker Jeremy Lin,17, drives for a basket during the fourth quarter agains the Celtics. (Photo by Stephen Carr/Daily Breeze)

Los Angeles Laker Jeremy Lin,17, drives for a basket during the fourth quarter agains the Celtics. (Photo by Stephen Carr/Daily Breeze)

The Lakers could not field a full practice on Wednesday for one factor that can never escape them. Surprise, surprise. The Lakers experienced another flush of injuries.

Lakers guard Jeremy Lin (thigh contusion) and Lakers forward Wesley Johnson (calf) both missed Wednesday’s practice because of injuries they suffered in the team’s win over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday at Staples Center. With Nick Young out with a swollen left knee, that left the Lakers with 10 players.

Still, the Lakers (17-46) expect both Lin and Johnson will play in Thursday’s game against the New York Knicks (12-51) at Staples Center.

That left Jabari Brown without experiencing his first full practice after the Lakers signed him to a 10-day contract. But Scott still plans to play Brown.

“We went over some things offensively with him and he had a pretty good grasp on what we’re doing,” Scott said. “So it doesn’t change at all.”

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Kobe Bryant’s teammates appreciate his feedback on the bench

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant gives a thumbs-up to a fan during the NCAA basketball game between Duke and Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant gives a thumbs-up to a fan during the NCAA basketball game between Duke and Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

His job description once entailed hitting game-winning shots, setting up his teammates and exuding the kind of mental toughness few players possess today.

But Kobe Bryant cannot do any of that these days. A surgically repaired right shoulder has kept him off the court for two months. The Lakers do not expect him to return until seven months later. Yet, in what marked his second appearance on the bench, it became clear that Bryant put his fingerprints on the Lakers’ 93-85 victory against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday at Staples Center.

Lakers coach Byron Scott still insists Bryant will never become a coach, his unyielding expectations eventually driving him to frustration when players less talented than him fail to live up to those demands. But on this night, Bryant did.

“He takes guys to the side, talks to them, encourages them and shows them things on the floor that he sees,” Scott said. “That helps those guys as well. A lot of guys are visual, anyway. It’s just a blessing to have him on the bench talking to our young guys and giving them encouragement.”
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Byron Scott downplays Lakers’ earliest playoff elimination in L.A. franchise history

Lakers head Clippers Byron Scott doesn't look happy during the Clippers' 114-89 victory over the Lakers Wednesday night Jan. 7, 2015 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Kevin Sullivan)

Lakers head Clippers Byron Scott doesn’t look happy during the Clippers’ 114-89 victory over the Lakers Wednesday night Jan. 7, 2015 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Kevin Sullivan)

The Lakers finally felt the rare sense of victory, a 93-85 win over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday at Staples center both ending a five-game losing streak and ensuring free tacos for everyone.

But the Lakers (17-46) still ended up losing. With the New Orleans Pelicans defeating the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, the Lakers were officially eliminated from the playoffs. This marked the Lakers’ earliest elimination since the franchise moved to Los Angeles before the 1960-61 season. This will also mark the second consecutive season the Lakers will not make the postseason, including the seventh time in franchise history.

“Damn. I was waiting for us to go on a 21-game winning streak,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said.

Scott then turned serious.

“I don’t think about that, to be honest with you,” Scott said. “I’m just thinking about the process of this team continuing to get better and just sticking with what we talked about on both ends of the floor. From day one to now, we’ve gotten better on the defensive end. That’s what I’ve been preaching all season long, so that makes me happy. We’ve got to continue to do that for the next 19 games.”

The bad news might keep on coming. The Lakers currently have a .258 winning percentage, the worst in franchise history. The Lakers are also only 10 more losses away from finishing with a worst record than last year’s team that went 27-55, the team’s worst in L.A. franchise history.

Regardless, the Lakers believe good things are on the horizon. The Lakers expect Kobe Bryant (right shoulder) and Julius Randle (right leg) to fully heal from their season-ending injuries next season. The Lakers will participate in the NBA draft lottery for the fourth time since it was introduced in 1985. The Lakers have a top-five protected pick, meaning they will only trade it to Philadelphia if it lands at sixth or worse. That arrangement stems from the Steve Nash deal with the Phoenix Suns in 2012, which the 76ers acquired at this year’s trade deadline.

The Lakers currently have the NBA’s fourth-worst record, giving them an 82.8 percent chance of retaining their first-round pick. The odds increase to 96 percent if the Lakers finish with the league’s third-worst record. The Lakers also have a first-round pick likely slated late in the round stemmed from the Jeremy Lin trade from Houston as well as two conditional second round picks.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant “probably” unsure of retirement date until next season ends

Lakers Kobe Bryant watches the game during first half action at Staples Center Sunday, March 8, 2015. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

Lakers Kobe Bryant watches the game during first half action at Staples Center Sunday, March 8, 2015. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

The question made Kobe Bryant shake his head. The Lakers’ star also sounded incredulous.

“Who the hell said I was retiring?” Bryant said on Tuesday before the Lakers (16-46) hosted the Detroit Pistons (23-39) at Staples Center. “It was never a question for me whether or not I was going to play next year.”

This may have marked Bryant’s first public appearance among assembled media since he suffered a season-ending right shoulder injury on Jan. 21 in New Orleans. But Bryant made plenty of appearances promoting his Showtime documentary in recent weeks where he repeated his intentions to return for the 2015-16 season in what will mark his 20th year with the Lakers. Bryant repeated that sentiment in a recent interview with Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Another topic surrounding Bryant’s future seems far more uncertain. Would he ever consider playing past his $23 million contract that ends next season?

“Yeah, I mean I could,” Bryant said. “As I sit here right now, will I play past next year? No. That could change.”

What variables would Bryant consider on whether he would prolong his career?

“No idea. I don’t know,” Bryant quickly said before providing some insight. “If it’s I feel like playing and if I have to do the process again and if I feel like I’m enjoying getting up and training every single day and that sort of thing. After three years of dealing with this crap, you kind of understand why I don’t want to keep dealing with that anymore.”
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Lakers sign Jabari Brown to 10-day contract

The player emerged on the Lakers’ practice floor and immediately began working on shooting and conditioning drills. Yet, what seemed like a normal routine still prompted turned heads and raised eyebrows.

The man is Jabari Brown, and he was just moments from signing a 10-day contract with the Lakers after spending most of the 2014-15 season with their Development League affiliate.

“I felt like I showed I can play at a high level,” Brown told Los Angeles News Group after averaging a league-leading 24.4 points per game, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists with the D-Fenders. “There’s a lot of good players in the D-League. I felt like it was a good experience of all the travel and the grind of being a pro.”

Brown’s arrival with the Lakers coincides with a few developments.

With Ronnie Price out for the season with a surgically repaired right elbow, the NBA granted the Lakers a disabled player exception that would allow the team to add a 16th player to their roster. That rule becomes effective when an NBA team has at least four players out for an extended period of time. In the Lakers’ case, that also includes season-ending ailments to Kobe Bryant (right shoulder), Steve Nash (back) and Julius Randle (right leg). The Lakers also wanted to add a wing player amid an indefinite absence to Nick Young, who has missed the past seven games because of a swollen left knee.

Scott deferred to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on whether the Lakers would add any other players to 10-day contracts.

“I’m all for it if that’s what Mitch wants to do,” Scott said. “We talked about Jabari a few days ago and wanted to bring him. We needed a body or two anywat. But it gives us a chance to see if we’d like to have the guy on our summer league team as well.”

Scott said Brown will join the Lakers (16-46) on the bench for Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Pistons (23-39) at Staples Center. But Scott does not plan to play Brown until Thursday’s game against New York so he can practice on Wednesday. Brown also spent Tuesday morning playing two-on-two with rookie forward Julius Randle against Lakers assistant coach Mark Madsen and player development coach J.J. Outlaw.

“He can really shoot the ball. He’s a little undersized at the 2 position,” Scott said of the 6’4″ Brown. “There’s time out there available since I’ve been going with the three guard rotation and this gives me another perimeter guy I can throw in there.”
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Lakers’ new starters include Wesley Johnson, Jordan Hill & Tarik Black

Los Angeles Laker Wesley Johnson grabs a rebound against the Utah Jazz first half in the NBA preseason basketball game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. on Tuesday, October 22, 2013. (Photo by Sean Hiller/Daily News)

Los Angeles Laker Wesley Johnson grabs a rebound against the Utah Jazz first half in the NBA preseason basketball game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. on Tuesday, October 22, 2013. (Photo by Sean Hiller/Daily News)

The Lakers’ Wesley Johnson, Jordan Hill and Tarik Black will reclaim their starting spot for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks (40-24) at Staples Center, marking the 11th different starting lineup the Lakers (16-45) fielded for the 2014-15 season.

Johnson (small forward), Hill (power forward) and Hill (center) will replace Ryan Kelly, Carlos Boozer and Robert Sacre in the starting lineup. Meanwhile, Lakers rookie point guard Jordan Clarkson and shooting guard Wayne Ellington will retain their starting spots.

Scott’s thought process: “I want to see those guys play together” before envisioning making at least one more lineup change in the Lakers’ 21 remaining games.

“I don’t think it will be the lineup for the rest of the season,” Scott said.

Black had sat for five consecutive games before playing for nine minutes in Friday’s loss in Memphis. Yet, Scott plans to start for about 10 to 12 games between 20-25 minutes to develop the rookie center. Black has averaged 4.9 points on 57.1 percent shooting and 5.1 rebounds in 17 games with the Lakers, including six as a starter.
minutes per game.

Scott said “it hasn’t gotten to that point yet” where Boozer would play significantly fewer minutes to allow Black more opportunities. Boozer had started the past seven games, and has averaged 12.4 points on 51.2 percent shooting and 6.9 rebounds this season.

Johnson has started 40 games already this season. But Scott made this change partly to play Ryan Kelly off the bench in a split role at both the small and power forward positions. Kelly had started 20 games at the small forward spot after playing mostly at his natural position at power forward last season under Mike D’Antoni. Kelly has averaged 4.9 points on 30.6 percent shooting, a sharp drop from when he averaged eight points on a 42.3 percent clip last season.

Hill has averaged 12.4 points and eight rebounds, including 43 games as a starter. Meanwhile, Sacre has averaged 4.5 points and 3.4 rebounds.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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