When Byron Scott was hired, I didn’t know too much about him as a coach, but liked what he had to say at his press conference. As a Lin fan, I was optimistic. He said a lot of good things at his press conference, but the thing I was most skeptical about was his promise to bring back the championship mindset. I’m a pretty optimistic guy, but I couldn’t figure out how the hell he would go about bringing back a championship mindset to a team that just finished up with their worst record in franchise history. Granted, there are a lot of new guys that weren’t a part of that notorious record, but still. The loser mentality had pervaded the Lakers organization.
After watching what Scott has done during training camp, I’m very impressed! It feels to me like something out of a feel-good sports movie. The way Byron Scott runs training camp is like Coach Carter. It’s not something you often see in the NBA where players have big egos and coaches are too timid to actually coach their superstar players (I’m looking at you, Kevin McHale). To have Byron Scott run camp the way he does at the NBA level is something pretty special to see. It’s old school, but totally refreshing at the same time. I think a lot of coaches may think it’s not appropriate to make multimillionaire NBA players do suicides nonstop and run around the court like they’re back in high school or college, but coach B hasn’t shied away from it one bit.
As someone who’s really interested in psychology and how to change behavior and mindsets, etc. I couldn’t figure out what Scott would be able to do to genuinely instill a championship mindset on these players. Of course, it’ll still take some time, but I think Scott has started to accomplish just this. That in of itself is quite an accomplishment already. Of course, this could quickly evaporate if the Lakers go on to lose a bunch of games to start out the season. So they still need to win games to reinforce this championship mindset. But at least they’re starting out with the proper mindset, which is something I didn’t even think would be possible. It does help Coach B that he has at least three guys on the team who have high IQs, are mentally tough and are the hardest workers in the NBA in Kobe, Nash and Lin. So Coach B is fortunate enough to have the right group of guys who totally buy into what he’s trying to do. Nonetheless, I give Coach B full credit for coming up with the idea. I wouldn’t have been able to figure it out, but it turned out it was something very simple. Just get the guys to work their asses off and then some and get them to–at the same time–focus on the details and not let themselves or each other off the hook.
At B’s training camp, there is no time to goof around or take it easy. It’s all about survival, as Kobe so aptly put it. You’re immediately put to work so everyone gets serious immediately. Even though practice is very physically demanding, it’s your mental toughness that allows you to endure all the physical demands. It’s your mental toughness that tells you to push through. And it’s this mental toughness that will form the basis of the championship mindset that Coach B wants to instill in his players.
Watching Coach B conduct this training camp is a lesson on how to be a good coach. Not just in basketball, but in general. He really has accomplished something that I didn’t think would be possible to do so quickly. I thought when he talked about bringing a championship mindset back to the Lakers, it was just something nice to say. Something for the fans to cheer behind. I didn’t think he meant it in a practical way that was realistically implementable. So just for that, I’m very impressed with Coach B and I know he has the immediate respect of all of his players. I mean, how could you not?
Kobe, for sure, is loving every minute of it. I think Kobe is actually having the time of his life right now. I know others might be skeptical of this, but I see so much joy in Kobe. In one recent interview, he said, “The game was becoming a little stale. I think the Achilles injury just ignited a new challenge for me personally.” Kobe is someone who savors challenges, so I think he is savoring every minute of it and to have a coach that is so in line with his own philosophy about competition must be thrilling for him. (I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides to continue playing a couple more years if the Lakers end up making the playoffs this season and making some noise.)
Aside from a championship mindset, having his players work so hard that they need to help each other by pushing each other to just survive training camp is a great way to quickly build chemistry among a group of players who are new to one another. It’s a brilliant strategy and something that I’m sure Coach B has thought about. This is another way in which it all feels like a movie to me. The Lakers are a team with a storied past that has seen its best years behind it. And they got two Hall of Famers who are near the end of their respective careers, trying to make one last go at it, with most doubting that they have anything left to give. And the entire team is filled with guys who have been counted out or weren’t given their due respect like Lin, Boozer and even Jordan Clarkson, who should have probably been a first-round pick.
Imagine if the Lakers could end up making some noise in the playoffs (I already have them in the playoffs, so to me, it’s not even about just making the playoffs.)? That would rock the NBA! So I feel like watching the Lakers this season is like watching a movie, being played out. We’ll see if this one has a happy ending.
I don’t care what Kobe says about “Championship or a waste of time”. I think if the Lakers end up making some noise in the playoffs and even make it to the Western Conference Finals, Kobe would be thrilled beyond anything. And he may not admit it publicly, but I think he’d probably enjoy it more than any of his championships, because of the context of everything this season (the challenge), and I think he cherishes things more in his old age.
One last thing, I made a prediction on Twitter that I’d like to reiterate here: I predict Byron Scott will win coach of the year, because the Lakers are going to go from having the worst record in franchise history to making the playoffs. Of course, no one is talking about this. Analysts are often way behind the curve, playing catch up, because they’re afraid of saying something that seem too “out there”. Afraid of putting themselves out there.