During the 1990-91 season, a campaign that saw the Los Angeles Lakers ride a fifth-ranked offense all the way to the NBA Finals, Magic Johnson and Byron Scott led the team in attempting 250 and 219 3-pointers, respectively. No other Laker even broke triple digits in triples attempts, as the aging Laker backcourt relied more and more on the perimeter bombs to contribute.
It would be the last season the two would play together, as Johnson retired the next November after being diagnosed with HIV, and Scott went on to a respected journeyman career as a 3-point specialist. Both eventually returned to the Lakers for one final NBA season – Magic in 1996, Scott the next season – with Magic continuing to rely on his push shot from outside the arc, and Scott taking nearly half his attempts from long range.
This is why it was more than a little curious that Magic would offer a particularly nasty take on the shot that has served him so well, in talking up Scott’s recent hire as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
"The team is better than what we had last season, because we have more guys who can do more things than just shoot 3-pointers," said Johnson. "If I don't see another 3-pointer from a Laker team, I'll be happy."
Now, that last line about never seeing another trey thrown up by a member of his beloved team might be a throwaway joke, but Magic has taken his anti-Mike D’Antoni crusade to all-time heights.
D’Antoni should not have been hired by the Lakers in 2012. The Lakers’ front office should not have attempted to build a philosophy that resembled Steve Nash and D’Antoni’s former Phoenix Suns squads, as the franchise should have made a better attempt to work around the low-post stylings of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. It’s just fine to criticize both the hire and D’Antoni’s work, as we all have, without looking tacky at best and downright mean at worst.
The Lakers will be better this year, because Kobe Bean Bryant will be there this year. Even if he can’t help but work in a diminished state, he’s Kobe. Don’t count out Kobe.
The Lakers won’t take as many 3-pointers next year because Scott won’t replicate D’Antoni’s high-end pace, which inflates raw numbers, and specialist Jodie Meeks (who saved the Lakers at times last year) signed with Detroit, but they’ll still fire away. Nick Young has been retained by the team, Bryant will shoot from long range and point guard Jeremy Lin shot just as many 3-pointers per minute last year as former Laker point man Kendall Marshall. A returning Steve Nash relies on the shot quite a bit as well.
And frankly, outside of the return of Kobe, who are these “guys who can do more things?”
Grabbing a solid lottery selection in Julius Randle was nice, and the much-maligned Carlos Boozer may have a bounce-back season in Los Angeles, but those are clear downgrades from Pau Gasol; even with Gasol’s injury history. Lin is better than Marshall, but he’s not a knockout, and expecting some exceptional growth from Nick Young as a player after he gets back from his summer out with Iggy Azalea and firing 30-footers at the Drew League seems a bit much.
From there it seems like Magic is expecting quite a lot from Kobe, which is fine, and a steep upgrade as his favorite team moves from Mike D’Antoni to Byron Scott.
That’s an iffy one, even if D’Antoni was a poor fit for Howard, Gasol and eventually Bryant.
Judging coaches by raw won-loss totals is always just as iffy, but Scott does have over more than 100 more losses than wins as a coach, and he’s coming off three seasons in Cleveland that were disappointing even by rebuilding standards. There is a chance his Princeton-inspired musings on offense could do good things for offense-only types like Bryant, Nash, Young, Lin and Boozer, but by and large this roster still looks like a bit of a tire fire.
And only different because Magic Johnson’s former 3-point buddy is coaching it, as opposed to the guy he never liked.
We hope Magic gets over the Mike D’Antoni era eventually enough.
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