Ohio State Basketball: Shannon Scott Proving Ready to Step Up and Lead Buckeyes

The 2014-15 Ohio State basketball team is only two games into its new season, but it may have a case of no Aaron Craft, no problem if Shannon Scott’s early performances are any indication.

Scott controlled the pace of the entire 74-63 victory over Marquette on Tuesday night and finished with eight points on 4-of-7 shooting, an astounding 14 assists, two rebounds and two steals.

That game was only just the beginning for the senior leader on a team that is loaded with young contributors. It is his fourth year on campus, and he finally looks fully comfortable in his role.

This is his team.

While the 4-of-7 shooting was certainly noteworthy, Scott’s 14 assists are what turned heads. Eleven Warriors pointed out that it has been a two-game pattern already, while Lori Schmidt of 97.1 The Fan passed along the rather amusing reaction from Scott’s teammates when they found out how close he was to a school record:

Scott not only led the way in the victory, but he also caught the eye of the national media along the way. Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports gave the Buckeyes point guard some praise, while ESPN commentator Dan Dakich said on the broadcast that Scott is actually one of the toughest guards to defend in the Big Ten this season.

Dakich’s comments may be a bit hyperbolic in the aftermath of an excellent game, but it was crystal-clear that Scott is ready to step into the national spotlight as a senior distributor.

Perhaps the best part of Tuesday’s game for the Buckeyes is that all 10 players who saw action on the court scored. It will be just as much Scott’s job to keep everyone involved in this group that can go 10 deep as head coach Thad Matta’s. Matta will be the one tasked with keeping the legs fresh before the tournament, while Scott will be the one asked to keep everyone happy and involved with his precise passing.

Against Marquette, Kam Williams scored 15 points, Sam Thompson had 10, Marc Loving added 10 and the team as a whole made eight of 15 three-pointers. Amir Williams, who has been inconsistent at best his entire Ohio State career, scored 12 points and made all six of his field-goal attempts.

That’s not even mentioning freshman D’Angelo Russell, who may just be the most talented player on this entire team.

Scott can work with Amir Williams, Anthony Lee and even Trey McDonald on pick-and-rolls or set up athletes like Russell, Sam Thompson, Kam Williams, Loving, Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate in transition as slashers toward the rim or when they are spotting up from downtown.

On the defensive side, Scott spearheads the different zone looks that Matta has utilized in the early going. Ohio State even mixed in some 1-3-1 on Tuesday.

We already know from Scott’s track record playing alongside Craft that he is capable of being a lethal defender. He was an All-Big Ten defender the last two seasons who forced turnovers (two steals a game last year and 1.7 a game in 2012-13) and got out in transition afterward.

There is no reason to expect the defensive results to change in Scott’s senior season.

There are so many young players on this roster that someone needs to take the initiative on the defensive end. It may be less glamorous than scoring, but it has also been the key to victory ever since Matta took over at Ohio State.

As the senior leader and point guard who takes pride in his defense, Scott will do this all season.

We know what Scott is capable of on the defensive side, and we saw a glimpse of his offensive abilities on Tuesday against Marquette. The reason this is so encouraging for Buckeyes fans is that Scott has wasted little time breaking out this season after playing under Craft’s shadow his entire career.

The talent has always been there for Scott since he was a highly touted recruit, but Craft was the one who caught the attention of the fanbase (and opposing fanbases) and commentators across the country. It was for good reason too, considering Craft was the Defensive Player of the Year last season.

Scott undoubtedly learned from playing with Craft for three seasons, but he may actually be the better offensive player. Neither is a deadeye jump-shooter, but Scott is more than willing to distribute and get everyone involved. He is faster in the open court than Craft ever was, which is critical for this year’s team that is loaded with wing players and shooters who are ready to get out in transition.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing of all is that Scott understands this is his team and is embracing his role as a senior leader, which was evident in his preseason comments, via Tim Shoemaker of Eleven Warriors:

It’s not really a different feeling because I’ve had a lot of these guys around me for the last three years so I kind of understand what they like to do on the court, but I understand that I’ve gotta be very aggressive this year. I can’t look to Aaron to help me on the court, I’ve really gotta pick it up and keep going by myself in getting everyone where they need to be. 

If Scott continues to get everyone involved like he did on Tuesday, the Buckeyes will be playing deep into March.

 

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Los Angeles Lakers Head Coach Byron Scott Rips Team’s Defensive Effort

The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t stopped anyone this season, and head coach Byron Scott has seen enough.

Per Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Scott unloaded on his team after an ugly 109-102 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Nov. 12: “They got pretty much anything they wanted in the paint with no resistance whatsoever. It was just terrible. That was probably the worst defense that we’ve played from the preseason all the way to this particular point.”

And that’s saying something.

Because while the loss to the Pelicans—which featured 60 paint points for the Pellies—was an undoubtedly poor showing, it wasn’t exactly out of the ordinary. Scott’s Lakers have allowed a league-worst 114.4 points per 100 possessions, as seen on NBA.com, which has them on course to make history in a way the organization would probably like to avoid.

Scott has voiced frustration plenty of times this season, but he has yet to find a solution to the Lakers’ problems. Perhaps that’s because the roster he inherited came with precisely zero above-average defenders.

I mean, asking Carlos Boozer for better defense is roughly the equivalent of asking a car on jacks to drive faster. Shout all you want; it’s not happening.

And Kobe Bryant, for all of his incredible late-career offensive heroics, essentially stopped playing defense three years ago.

Even if the Lakers had the personnel to build a respectable defense, recent history suggests Scott probably wouldn’t have been the man best suited to get results. Scott’s Cleveland Cavaliers ranked 26th or lower in defensive efficiency in each of his last three years at the helm.

From the start, this Lakers team was ticketed for defensive disaster.

Going forward, Scott has very little tactical wiggle room to address his team’s most glaring flaw. Perhaps that’s why his default plan of action includes working harder, playing with more grit and doubling down on effort, per his comments to Holmes. When there’s no hope of fixing the problem with personnel or strategy, ineffectual cliches like those are all that remain.

Credit Scott for his willingness to attack the problem, though.

Perhaps Boozer will see his minutes decrease, a move that could help on D and would certainly please the growing contingent of Ed Davis supporters. And there’s always the possibility that the Lakers adopt an ultra-conservative defensive strategy that packs the paint and at least makes it a little harder for opponents to convert point-blank looks at will.

We’re not even close to our expectations, or at least mine,” Scott said.

Unfortunately, this is pretty much what everybody else saw coming a mile away.

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Thunder Coach Scott Brooks Faces Biggest Challenge and Opportunity of Career

Scott Brooks has had it easy for most of his career as the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he’ll be defined by the way he navigates the hard times ahead.

Having Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the roster necessarily simplified things. Actual plays lost their importance when freelancing superstars with elite skill could get buckets on their own at will, and having players like KD and Westbrook naturally created a hierarchy on the roster that other teams struggle for years to establish.

Everything kind of fell into place.

No more; things are decidedly out of place now, and Brooks suddenly finds himself forced to coach a team that barely resembles the one he thought he’d be leading this season.

The fact that he never devised a complex offensive system didn’t matter before. It matters now that Durant is out with a broken foot and Westbrook is sidelined with a broken hand. What critics have long hypothesized— that Brooks has survived on the strength of his team’s talent—is about to be tested in real-world conditions.

And because Brooks has been called a good person as often as he’s been labeled a bad coach, it’s hard not to root for him.

Haralabos Voulgaris, noted NBA gambler and guest on a recent Bill Simmons podcast, summed up the scenario thusly: “If I had a kid and I didn’t want to raise him, by all means I’d pick him to raise my kid because he seems like a great man. But I wouldn’t want him making decisions on what to do and what not to do in a basketball game. I just wouldn’t want that.”

There’s hyperbole there, but it’s not totally out of line with the consensus on Brooks. We’ve all watched the strategic breakdowns when playoff defenses zero in on Durant and Westbrook. There’s never been a system to fall back on. The counters haven’t been there, and the adjustments have come too late—or not at all.

 

Adversity Spurring Growth

Durant and Westbrook were Brooks’ training wheels—preventing him from tipping over but ultimately making it impossible for him to balance on his own.

The training wheels are off now, and it’s worth noting that Brooks is faring better than expected.

No, the Thunder don’t look spectacular. They’re 1-4 through five games and appear to be wholly overmatched most nights. But we’ve seen some signs of progress from the coach.

Like this elevator play, for example, popularized last year by the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry:

That’s an outside-the-box use of a smart design—made even smarter by the fact that Brooks employed it to spring his power forward for a three. I’m not sure we would have ever seen him try that with Durant and Westbrook healthy.

Also encouraging: Brooks handed the starting center job to second-year big man Steven Adams. The move was a long time coming, and by almost any objective analysis, Kendrick Perkins’ demotion came years too late. But it finally happened, and Brooks seems to be getting more flexible in his personnel moves.

He’s had no choice.

The Thunder are dropping like flies in the early season. In addition to Durant and Westbrook’s major injuries, Reggie Jackson missed time with an ankle sprain, and Anthony Morrow and Jeremy Lamb are out for the next few weeks.

But wait, there’s more!

Andre Roberson has a sprained foot. Perry Jones has a bruised knee.

Essentially, the Thunder have gone from playing shorthanded to playing with both hands tied behind their back. The injuries have been flat-out brutal, and the possibility for disaster increases with every undermanned loss.

Grantland’s Zach Lowe offered a stark forecast: “The math from there is daunting. Oklahoma City would have to go 41-16 just to reach the 49 wins it took to snag the no. 8 spot last season. And that 8-17 record, as bad as it looks, might be optimistic.”

Yikes.

 

Challenge and Opportunity

On one hand, maybe the dire straits facing the Thunder will result in Brooks getting a pass. Nobody could be expected to thrive with such a skeleton crew. Even when you lay out the possible routes for Brooks to make the best of this situation, they all come with convincing counterpoints that suck the optimism right out of the atmosphere.

For example, Brooks should probably lean on Jackson to lead the team. But Jackson has never been a leader, and he might be selfishly motivated by his impending free agency.

Similarly, Brooks must ask even more of his team’s perennially underrated defense with his best scorers sidelined. But Oklahoma City is far less fearsome on D without KD and Russ clogging passing lanes and creating steals. To his credit, Brooks has experimented with some zone looks in the early going, a testament to his growing resourcefulness.

As mothers of invention go, it seems desperation is as good as necessity.

The best-case scenario here is that Brooks shines through as a motivator, emphasizing the traits that have helped him keep his job this long. Players work hard for him, and if OKC‘s remaining healthy bodies give Brooks their full commitment, that’ll be as strong of a testament to his abilities as anything.

So far, so good. “It was an effort that I was encouraged with,” Brooks said after falling to the Toronto Raptors, per Nick Gallo of Thunder.com. “I liked the guys’ tenacity. They’re scrapping.”

At the same time, it’s possible all the effort in the world won’t save Brooks from the rising tide of criticism that has been kept at bay only by his team’s success in recent years. If the Thunder fall apart without stars holding up the framework, it’ll validate Brooks’ detractors.

 

Don’t Worry; It Only Means Everything

This is a crossroads moment for Brooks. But it’s also a pivot point for the franchise as a whole.

A wasted season is never good, but if Oklahoma City doesn’t make the most of this campaign with a strong closing run, it might have just one more attempt to convince Durant that his best path to a title is with this team and this coach.

Durant will become a free agent in 2016, and it’s totally feasible that he’ll decide he’s given the Thunder long enough to provide him with the resources he needs to win a ring. Worries like that are a ways off (though they’re not that far away); Brooks and the Thunder’s immediate concern is surviving long enough to reach the playoffs this season.

That’ll be tough enough.

Long viewed as a guy carried by the talent around him, Brooks has a chance to prove himself now—albeit one that arrives disguised as a setup for failure.

Unlikely as it seems, we might see Brooks use this challenge as a way to further endear himself to Durant and Westbrook. Supportive as they’ve been, they’ve still heard the critical rumblings these past few years. If OKC survives—and if Brooks is part of the reason for that survival—it could go a long way toward showing the team’s stars that Brooks is still the man for the job.

That could mean everything this year, next year and in the distant future.

It won’t be easy, of course. But there are plenty who’d say Brooks has had it easy long enough.

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Byron Scott on Lakers-Paul trade: Damn it, David Stern

The Los Angeles Lakers could certainly use Chris Paul at the moment. Instead, thanks to former commissioner David Stern, the Clippers have been the recipient of Paul’s services the last several years. Before the 2011-2012 season, the Lakers landed Paul in a trade with New Orleans but Stern vetoed the deal. This allowed the Clippers to jump into the Paul race and eventually land the all-star point guard. Fast forward five years later and the Lakers have gone from perennial contender to among the dregs of the NBA. The Clippers on the other hand, are one of the most exciting teams to watch and have been a contender in the Western Conference the last couple of years.
Now, with new coach Byron Scott at the helm, the Lakers are in rebuilding mode and very thin at point guard. Kobe Bryant is near the end of a Hall of Fame career and the rest of the Lakers roster is dropping like flies due to injuries. This led to Scott reminiscing about the aforementioned Stern nixing and dreaming about a scenario of Kobe and

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Byron Scott: Kobe Bryant is serious about championships, Dwight Howard isn’t

The Los Angeles Lakers host the Houston Rockets on Tuesday to open their season, which means Dwight Howard will be in town to face Kobe Bryant and his former team. “I don’t know what Dwight’s motivation is,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said to Los Angeles Daily News’ Mark Medina. “But if I’m guessing, I’m sure he would love to play and beat the crap out of us and have a great game.” Howard has faced the Lakers three times since leaving to sign with the Rockets.  But this will be the first time Bryant and Howard step on the court together in opposing uniforms. “My outside perspective is Kobe is a real serious guy and wants to win championships,” Scott said. “I don’t know if Dwight is that serious about it. I know No. 24 is and that probably was the clash.” The post Byron Scott: Kobe Bryant is serious about championships, Dwight Howard isn’t appeared first on Sports Glory.

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Russell Westbrook, Scott Brooks Talk Impact of Kevin Durant Injury on PG’s Role

The Oklahoma City Thunder are Russell Westbrook‘s team now. Kevin Durant‘s Jones fracture in his right foot is expected to keep him out no less than six weeks, leaving Westbrook with the temporary keys to his own kingdom.

So, what does this all mean for the polarizing point guard’s role? Not all that much, according to Thunder head coach Scott Brooks and the man himself.     

“It’s not about me. It’s about our team. I can’t win games by myself. I can’t do anything by myself,” Westbrook told ESPN.com’s Royce Young on Monday. “I kind of want to take the attention off me and put it more on the team. Everybody keeps asking what I’m going to do and how I’m going to change. I think it’s more about our team and what we can do.”

Durant, the reigning NBA MVP, was diagnosed with the foot fracture Saturday. He is still considering a course of treatment—mostly related to whether or not he has surgery—but similar injuries have kept players out between six and eight weeks in the past, Thunder general manager Sam Presti said in a statement.

Without Durant, who has led the NBA in scoring four of the past five years, much of the scoring burden is expected to be placed on Westbrook. 

The situation runs parallel to the one Durant was placed in last season, when Westbrook missed most of the first half while recovering from multiple knee surgeries. Durant responded to his co-star’s absence with an offensive tour de force, most memorably averaging 35.9 points per game in the month of January. Westbrook’s absence in many ways allowed Durant to take that final leap and knock LeBron James off the MVP perch he’s owned for most of the last half-decade.

But where some believe Westbrook’s injury unleashed Durant, the verb takes an entirely different connotation with the enigmatic guard.

Westbrook, himself a three-time All-Star and one of the NBA’s 10 best players, is also one of its most highly critiqued. His shot selection ranges from free-wheeling to utterly befuddling, his whirling dervish playmaking from captivating and awe-inspiring to cringe-worthy. As John Schuhmann of NBA.com pointed out on Twitter, Westbrook shot 35 times in the 41 minutes he played without Durant last season. 

A possibly months-long Durant absence left some wondering if Westbrook would succumb to his worst impulses. While we’re still a little more than two weeks away from the Thunder’s season-opening tilt with the Portland Trail Blazers to see their plan in action, Brooks and Westbrook have gone out of their way to downplay the latter’s responsibility. 

“We’re not asking Russell to be a 35-point scorer,” Brooks said, per Young. “Obviously, he’s going to be a scorer because he can, and he does that at a high level. There will be games he might have 20, there will be games he’ll have 30, but there will also be some games where he has 15. He just has to continue to lead like he has been and that’s good enough.

“Everybody has to step up. It’s not one guy. You’re not going to replace Kevin with one guy. It’s the team getting better as a group is what I’m looking to replace him with.”

Words aren’t the only reason for optimism, either. Grantland’s Zach Lowe made the astute point Monday that lineups featuring Westbrook without Durant outscored their opponents by 9.5 points per 100 possessions in 2012-13. That would have been nearly a point and a half better than the Spurs’ rate from last season, per NBA.com.

The point being: Russell Westbrook can play. His and Durant’s constant pairing was more about Brooks’ desire to keep them together than an indictment on Westbrook.

The Thunder are going to be worse without Durant, but to pretend they’ll be some unmitigated disaster ignores the remaining talent on the roster. In Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City still has two of the league’s 20 best players and a supporting cast that held water without Westbrook last season.

Plus, Westbrook’s role is going to change. Public bluster or not, Westbrook will be blowing away his career scoring average by the time Durant returns.

He’s the only player in Oklahoma City’s projected starting lineup—assuming Brooks replaces Durant with a wing over Reggie Jackson—who can create an open look for himself. Westbrook, Durant and Jackson were the only three regular rotation players who were assisted on less than 60 percent of their field goals, per NBA.com.

Broken possessions are going to be a way of life without Durant. In most of those cases, it’ll be up to Westbrook or Jackson to use their off-the-dribble skills to make something happen. If Westbrook’s role truly doesn’t change—if, say, he’s averaging numbers right along with his career averages—then the Thunder are in trouble.

Oklahoma City needs Westbrook and Brooks to say the things they are now. In reality, they’ll need Westbrook to step up the way Durant did in his stead a year ago.

 

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Byron Scott on Julius Randle: ‘I thought he was lost’

Los Angeles Lakers rookie Julius Randle had 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting with seven rebounds and five assists in his debut at Staples Center in a 120-105 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night. Lakers coach Byron Scott thought the team’s seventh overall pick looked “lost” on the court. “I thought he was lost, in the first half especially,” Scott said, per ESPNLosAngeles.com. “I thought in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter he was better, but I thought in the first half the game was way too fast for him. “He’s a 19-year-old playing against a good team like that and moves the ball the way they move and have 4s that are agile and athletic like he is? Yeah, I pretty much expected that.” Kobe Bryant said he’s been working with Randle on getting him acclimated to playing in the NBA. “He’s getting his feet wet,” Bryant said. “He’s still getting used to the NBA game and the speed of the game. The biggest thing for me is to see him trust his jump shot bec

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Why Byron Scott Is the Perfect First Coach for Jordan Clarkson

An NBA rookie’s first head coach can make him or break him. For Jordan Clarkson of the Los Angeles Lakers, the hope is that Byron Scott will be the perfect teacher, counselor, disciplinarian and giver of confidence.

Clarkson—the team’s No. 46 pick this season—is a combo guard with great speed, athleticism and ball-handling skills. The Lakers are currently in their second week of training camp, but the rookie has been working out for months at the team’s El Segundo practice facility.

In mid-September, Clarkson was interviewed by Mike Trudell for Lakers.com and said, “Coach is doing a great job, coming in the gym and working with me.”

It shows a level of personal attention that not all head coaches offer. But for Scott, it’s part of a long-established pattern.

A three-time NBA champion as a shooting guard for the Showtime-era Lakers, Scott transitioned his success to the sidelines, taking the New Jersey Nets to the Finals twice, earning Coach of the Year with the New Orleans Hornets and as a guy generally regarded as a player’s coach.

Developing a couple of high-profile rookies—Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving—helped Scott earn that reputation. 

The mentoring habit started earlier than that, however.

For his final season as a player, Scott was brought back by the Lakers in order to mentor a willful and precocious rookie named Kobe Bryant.

Eighteen years later, the two are still close and working together once again.

This same type of lasting relationship can now be formed between Scott and Clarkson—a player with a self-admitted chip on his shoulder. This summer at the team’s practice facility, the brand new rookie said, per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

I feel like I was one of the better point guards in the draft, maybe the best. But falling out of the first round and being selected in the round. It’s not about the number being drafted. It’s about the fit. That’s where I get my chip from.

That type of confidence is often evident when a player first comes into the league—before the challenges of learning new systems and a different level of competition, before injuries and a grueling schedule, before sitting on the bench and wondering why, and before getting chopped down to size and lost in the NBA shuffle.

In today’s game, coaches are under inordinate pressure to win and win now, riding a carousel that stops ever more frequently. They rarely have the luxury or job security to invest time in the kind of extensive development that will pay off at some point down the line.

Scott, however, does put in the extra effort. And, his teachings are more than X’s and O’s. Heading into his fourth season in the league, Paul spoke with Keith Peneguy of The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune about Scott: “Coach is my guy. He’s more than just my coach. He’s my friend, my mentor, somebody that I look up to and somebody I have the ultimate respect for.”

Paul is arguably the top point guard in the NBA right now, and he learned from a coach who was once a guard who learned from Magic Johnson. These cyclical storylines are found time and again in sports.

Bryant, the aging superstar who learned as a rookie from Scott, is now taking on a mentorship role with younger players, including Clarkson, who has matched up with him in scrimmages throughout training camp.

The young guard spoke about the process recently, per Lakers.com, “I’m being a sponge right now, soaking as much information as I can. Shoot, it just keeps getting better.”

In turn, Bryant offered praise and encouragement during training camp, per Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times:

I like Jordan.  I think that was a steal of a pick. I’m surprised he slipped in the draft. Great pace, great feel for the game. He grasps concepts really well. He can shoot the deep ball. He has a really good floater and can get to the rim.

Scott was hired by the Lakers this summer as a familiar face from the past and tasked with the job of righting the ship after three disappointing seasons under two different head coaches: Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni. The new coach inherited a roster made up of aging stars, former draft busts and unproven prospects.

His solution has been to go back to fundamental concepts, like defense and accountability, and adopting a championship mindset even if nobody else in their right mind would expect that kind of result from this team.

Clarkson’s game has a lot to do with blow-by speed, great handles and the ability to get to the rim at will. During the Lakers’ five Summer League games in Las Vegas, the second-rounder set out to prove a point—outscoring all his teammates as well as nine of the top 10 picks to appear in action—the exception being Joel Embiid, who was recuperating from foot surgery.

In training camp, however, Scott is trying to teach his young charge about discipline and defensive principles, and about playing off the ball and taking open shots rather than contested ones.

There are points at which the lessons seem to leave an impression, with Clarkson telling Trudell, “I know I’m gonna have to come here in and play defense for sure. Coach Scott holds his hat on that, so that’s what I’m gonna try to bring it on the first day, on the defensive end. Everything else will come along if I do that.”

But during the team’s first preseason game, the rookie reverted to his natural instincts and went into gunner mode, lofting up 13 shot attempts in 27 minutes and making only three of those. On a more positive note, he got to the line often, had five rebounds and scrambled after loose balls on the floor.

After the game, Byron was asked how Clarkson did and responded via Lakers.com video:

Not bad, not bad. I think he took some ill-advised shots, a couple of quick shots, so we’ve got to do a better job of understanding, what’s a good shot and what’s not. But, for his first game, on the defensive end, I think he did a decent job as well. I was happy with it.

Scott is a tough, old-school coach, but he’s also a patient one. Even when Clarkson was jacking up rim-clankers, he was allowed to remain on the floor. In time, he found his rhythm. The leash is longer during the preseason, of course, but that’s what training camp is supposed to be about—learning opportunities rather than knee-jerk punishments.

During the team’s second preseason game, against the Golden State Warriors, Clarkson again was a bit hyperkinetic before leaving the game due to a left calf strain. Such is life in the NBA.

Tigers don’t generally change their stripes. Bryant, Paul and Irving all came into the league with certain ingrained instincts and styles. But they have also grown as players, and Scott deserves credit for his part in that.

This season, Clarkson will get a chance to play meaningful minutes and develop his game. He won’t be expected to save a franchise, nor will he be treated as an afterthought. He will learn the game of professional basketball the right way.

Thirty-one years after his own rookie season, an old guard will be guiding a new one. This could be a memorable journey for Clarkson, and it begins with a perfect first coach in Scott.

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Lakers’ Byron Scott: Julius Randle needs to improve conditioning

Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott is pleased rookie Julius Randle had 10 points with eight rebounds in their preseason opener. But Scott wants the seventh overall pick to improve conditioning. “He’s got to do a better job of setting screens,” said Scott, via the Los Angeles Times.  “He’s got to do a better job of getting up and down the floor.  He does that in spurts. “The biggest thing with him right now is that he has to get in better shape.  He’s in good shape but he has to get in great shape.” Scott wants his Lakers team to be one of the best=conditioned teams in the NBA. “When you’re not in great shape and you get tired, you lose focus, it’s that simple,” said Scott.  “It’s just a matter of getting him in great shape.” The Lakers host the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on Thursday night. The post Lakers’ Byron Scott: Julius Randle needs to improve conditioning appeared first on Sports Glory.

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Lakers News: Latest Comments from Wesley Johnson, Byron Scott and More

Playing out of position can stagnate a player’s career. Los Angeles Lakers small forward Wesley Person did that for much of the 2013-14 season.

Johnson can’t completely attribute his partially disappointing NBA career to being moved from his natural position, but last year’s stint in Mike D’Antoni’s small-ball lineup didn’t help him gain any momentum.

After being taken No. 4 overall in the 2010 NBA draft, Johnson has yet to average double figures in scoring, but he is making some strides.

New head coach Byron Scott says Johnson’s days of playing power forward are over, per Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times.

“He aint playing power forward anymore,” Scott said. “He has everything that he needs to be a very good player in this league. It’s just a matter of me pulling it all out of him. I think this year he’s going to surprise some people and have a good year.”

Johnson agreed that playing against the bigger, stronger forwards in the league was tough. 

“I’m back on the wing again. I get to guard the 3s (small forwards), mix it up with the 2s (shooting guards). It was crazy. I was guarding Blake and banging with Z-Bo (Randolph). That aint me. Get me on the wing. I’m very glad to be back.”

Johnson is only 27 years old. He is in the physical prime of his life, and through four years in the NBA, he has gained valuable experience in his time with three different franchises.

Despite spending too much time near the paint last season, Johnson averaged career highs in all but one major statistical category. Thus, there’s reason for optimism heading into the 2014-15 season.

Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
2010–11 Minnesota 79 63 26.2 .397 .356 .696 3.0 1.9 .7 .7 9.0
2011–12 Minnesota 65 64 22.6 .398 .314 .706 2.7 .9 .5 .7 6.0
2012–13 Phoenix 50 21 19.1 .407 .323 .771 2.5 .7 .4 .4 8.0
2013–14 Los Angeles 79 62 28.4 .425 .369 .792 4.4 1.6 1.1 1.0 9.1
Career   273 210 24.7 .408 .346 .739 3.3 1.3 .7 .7 8.1

The Lakers’ roster and current situation offer a great opportunity for Johnson to make a big impact. The team is in a rebuilding stage, and the player who will more than likely be ahead of Johnson in the rotation has the game of a sixth man.

According to the team’s depth chart on ESPN.com, Johnson is listed as the backup small forward behind Nick Young. Swaggy P might be best served coming off the bench to provide instant offense. That could give Johnson an inroad to more minutes and perhaps even a starting role.

Johnson could also see time as Kobe Bryant‘s backup at the 2-guard position. 

Playing solid defense will be the key to extended playing time for Johnson. If he can prove himself to be a better-than-average defender, Scott will find minutes for him.

Last season, Johnson averaged 1.1 steals per game in 28 minutes of action. His length and agility give him the tools to be a presence in the team’s perimeter defense. Don’t be surprised to see Johnson have another career year and gain some votes for Most Improved Player.

 

Stats per Basketball-Reference.com

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