Lakers’ firing of Byron Scott shows how the business of sports entertainment works – Los Angeles Times

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The Lakers did Sunday what many troubled organizations do in crisis, and fired their coach.

Tickets and merchandise have to be sold. Sponsorships have to be renewed. Television ratings have to be improved.

The appearance of change was necessary, so they let Byron Scott go.

Fair or not, this is how the business of sports entertainment works.

Now comes the hard part: actual change.

The Lakers’ ability to do so in the coming months will answer the uncomfortable question in the back of the minds of their loyal supporters.

Can the Lakers still be the Lakers? Or have they become a joke of an organization?

The Lakers must do far more than replace Scott.

They haven’t made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons. The last time they did, they went as the Western Conference’s seventh-place team.

Kobe Bryant provided convenient cover for their shortcomings over this turbulent period, but Bryant has retired.

They can no longer say they are propping him up in his final years to ensure he will retire a Laker. Nor can he be blamed for their failures to land high-end free agents.

Recent history inspires little confidence.

Mitch Kupchak is almost a decade removed from the Pau Gasol trade that resulted in two championships. There is no Jerry West in the front office.  

The timing of Scott’s dismissal renewed concerns about the competence of the team’s decision makers. Had they moved earlier, they could have pursued Tom Thibodeau or Scott Brooks, who have taken jobs elsewhere.

Social media and shoe contracts have changed the financial landscape to where players don’t have to play in a major market to become household names. The Lakers need top players more than the top players need them, which is why there is minimal buzz about their chances of landing free agent Kevin Durant.

Why would the 27-year-old Durant want to spend his prime as part of a rebuilding project?

What the Lakers have is money, courtesy of an increased salary cap and the shedding of Bryant’s league-high $25-million salary. And if the ping-pong balls fall the right way next month, they can gain another valuable asset in a top-three pick, which, in turn, could be flipped in a trade, making it possible for them to drastically transform overnight.

The opportunity also presents some danger. Lakers President Jeanie Buss sounds as if she is determined to hold her brother Jim to his promise of turning the team back into a contender by the upcoming season.

With his place in the organization presumably at stake, there is nothing to stop Jim Buss from overspending on second- or third-tier free agents, or making another move that would compromise the team’s future for an incremental short-term gain.

Scott was placed in an unwinnable situation. His replacement could be too.


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Twitter: @dylanohernandez

Lakers’ firing of Byron Scott shows how the business of sports entertainment works – Los Angeles Times