After a disappointing draft lottery, the Los Angeles Lakers quickly opened up shop and commenced the coaching search.
Locking into the no. 7 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft was not entirely unexpected. Immediately after, the Lakers did not hesitate to start the process of replacing Mike D’Antoni, who resigned as Lakers’ coach following the worst season in LA Lakers history.
By Thursday, Byron Scott and Mike Dunleavy had both interviewed for the vacancy. Dunleavy previously coached the Lakers from 1990-1992 and served as coach of the Los Angeles Clippers from 2003-2010. Dunleavy also had coaching stints with Portland and Milwaukee.
Scott, who played with the “showtime” Lakers in the 1980s, most recently served as head coach in Cleveland. Prior to Cleveland, Scott had successful tenures with the New Jersey Nets and the New Orleans Hornets.
Scott led the Nets to the 2002 NBA Finals, where they were beaten by the Lakers. In New Orleans, Scott won Coach of the Year in 2008, but lack of postseason success eventually led to an early season separation in 2009.
Along with interviewing coaches, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has been providing interviews to the media. On Wednesday, Kupchak took part in a conference call where he took questions from the Lakers’ beat reporters and a selected group of journalists.
Along with pointing out that the team only had four players on contract, Kupchak confirmed the Lakers were already interviewing candidates.
“I would not anticipate hiring a coach in the next two or three weeks, but we will interview several, more than three or four, probably,” Kupchak said on the conference call.
Acknowledging the seemingly empty roster, Kupchak focused on finding a coach who would maximize Kobe Bryant in the final two years of his career.
“(Bryant) is under contract for two more years and we think he is a very integral part of this team,” Kupchak said. “We have to make sure that whoever we hire as a coach will really get the most productivity out of him, whether it is scoring the ball or playmaking or the threat that he may score. That is probably a primary importance right now.”
Exiting the 2013-14 season, the Lakers had three points of emphasis moving forward. First, the team was focused on making the most of a rare spill into the NBA’s draft lottery. That may not have gone as well as the team had hoped, but the Lakers will still have the opportunity to pick up a young talented player.
Second, the team had secured significant salary cap space that allowed the Lakers to target free agents and be competitive in the open market. Free agency negotiations start in July, but the crop of free agents expected to be available may not be nearly as impressive as originally thought.
Finally, the Lakers still had Bryant--one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Coming off a torn Achilles and a fracture in his knee, the veteran shooting guard has a great deal to prove at the start of the season. After only playing six games in 2013-14, Bryant, who turns 36-years-old in August, is hoping for a big rebound.
With the draft lottery not going as well as the team had hoped and free agency not expected to provide any quick fixes, the Lakers’ goal appears to be maximizing Bryant for the final two years of his contract. As he has been for the better part of two decades, once again, Bryant is the focus.