Friday, June 07, 2002

Scott's coaching success no surprise to Rambis

AP Sports Writer

        EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Byron Scott's rapid success as an NBA coach doesn't surprise one of his former teammates with the Los Angeles Lakers.

        Kurt Rambis, now an assistant on the Lakers' staff, said playing on Los Angeles' championship “Showtime” teams of the 1980s was excellent training.

        “He was a student of the game, always thinking about opportunities for the club,” Rambis said. “He realizes that you can't win without playing defense and rebounding, something that we learned back then.”

        Last year, Scott's rookie coaching season with New Jersey, the Nets won just 26 games and missed the playoffs. This year, his second, they won 52 games and have made it to their first league championship round since they were the New York Nets of the ABA in 1976.

        “I think he's done a good job of communicating with the players there, getting them to play a certain style that suits their personnel,” said Rambis, who served as the Lakers' interim coach during part of the 1998-99 season. “He's got them passing, moving, cutting, has taught them sort of like we went through here (in the 1980s).”

        Scott, asked if he had ever dreamed of coaching the Lakers, said he was perfectly happy where he is.

        “I think I have a dream job right now,” he said. “We've got the best point guard (Jason Kidd) in the league, great owners, a great president. And our players are young and are going to get better.”


        COMING HOME, NO COWS: Coming back to his hometown to face the Lakers has proven a mixed blessing for New Jersey guard Lucious Harris.

        “When the Lakers beat Sacramento, my phone was ringing off the hook because we would be playing here. Relatives, friends, everybody called offering encouragement — and wanting tickets,” said Harris, who played at Cal State Long Beach. “I got calls from people I went to grammar school with, asking if they could get four tickets.”

        On the other hand, playing the Finals in Los Angeles has an upside.

        “When you talk about distractions, I think it would be a lot worse in Sacramento, a lot louder with all those cowbells,” Harris said.


        UNSAFE AT ANY SERIES: Consumer advocate Ralph Nader and the League of Fans, a sports industry watchdog group, sent a letter to NBA commissioner David Stern earlier this week complaining about the officiating in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.

        The Lakers, who beat Sacramento 106-102 in that game in Los Angeles, shot 27 free throws in the final quarter and scored 16 of their last 18 points at the line.

        Responding to a question about the letter, Lakers coach Phil Jackson essentially said “sour grapes.”

        “I feel sorry for Sacramento; it's tough to be good losers, it really is. That's a tough thing to do,” Jackson said.

        He noted that Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal shot about his normal number of free throws during the seven-game series against the Kings, O'Neal shot only one free throw in Game 5 in Sacramento.

        The letter to the commissioner said that public confidence already was shaken by recent breaches of trust by executives in several major American corporations, and that a sense of impartiality and professionalism should be maintained in commercial sports performances.

        “Sacramento is a political town, is it not?” Jackson asked rhetorically. “They would have consumer advocate groups and Ralph Nader would be there.”


        APOLOGY: Nets coach Byron Scott apologized for mistakenly saying that Kobe Bryant's wife was pregnant.

        In a television interview broadcast Wednesday, Scott said Bryant told him in early April that his wife, Vanessa, was pregnant.

        “She was not pregnant at the time, he told me he thought she was,” Scott said. “So that's something I wanted to clear up. And to Kobe and his wife, if I caused any problem with that, I apologize.”

        Scott and the Lakers' star are longtime friends, dating to when they were Los Angeles teammates in 1996-97, Bryant's rookie year and Scott's final season as a player.”


        PICKING SHAQ: Asked whether he would take Shaquille O'Neal or Michael Jordan if he had to choose between the two in their prime to build a team around, Scott didn't hesitate: “Shaq.”

        “He's 7-1, 350 pounds, and they come around once in a lifetime. I'm not saying you're going to find two or three M.J.s, but it's really hard to find a player with the strength, size and agility Shaq has,” Scott said.


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