Two years ago, the New Orleans Hornets looked like a team on the rise in the NBA. They had young star Chris Paul and emerging star David West, and they pushed the San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the second round of the playoffs.
Byron Scott was named coach of the after year that season. Thursday he was fired.
Scott was axed the morning after his Hornets got blown out by the Phoenix Suns on national television, dropping them to 3-6 on the season (on the heels of a disappointing last season). The Hornets seemed like a team lost, a team playing without any passion. It was clear some kind of shakeup was needed in New Orleans, and in today’s sports world that usually means the coach goes.
Scott will be replaced by general manager Jeff Bower, which is poetic justice as Bower created some of the problems Scott faced. He brought in Peja Stojakovic on an oversized contract, a move that hurt the team on and off the court. He traded away center Tyson Chandler to Charlotte for Emeka Okafo — the result has been a much worse defensive team for the Hornets, one that is letting teams run away from them. And Bower can’t fix it. With the Hornets being over the NBA’s luxury tax threshold by $3 million, they are not going to make any player trades right now.
Byron Scott is going to land on his feet somewhere, he had good coaching runs with both New Orleans and before in New Jersey, where he coached a Jason Kidd led team that made the NBA Finals back-to-back years. But in both cases he eventually seemed to lose the teams, which stopped playing for him.
Scott was a great Lakers shooting guard during the Showtime era, and he has said coaching the Lakers would be his dream job. Could he wind up back in Los Angeles?
Maybe, but now is not the time. The Lakers have Phil Jackson, who could theoretically retire at the end of any year — he’s rich and he’s got 10 rings — but is not likely to walk away from a contending team like the Lakers.
Even if Jackson did retire, this Lakers team is built to run the triangle offense. Scott’s style has been to use top-flight point guards to control teams that get out and run the fast break, then run a lot of pick-and-roll in the half court. Pretty much the opposite of how the current Lakers roster is constructed.
Maybe Scott would be a good choice down the line for the Lakers, when this championship window closes and Kobe and Jackson walk away. When it is time to retool the team. But for now, the Lakers don’t need Scott, save for some nice trips down memory lane.