For a guy who was living his boyhood dream and who could break up his teammates with impressions of Eddie Murphy, Laker shooting guard Byron Scott never seemed very happy, at least not when he was on the court. He pouted, he frowned, he worried—and he frequently came up short in pressure situations. His talent was estimable and obvious, but he could never quite integrate it with that of his teammates. "Imagine what the Lakers would be like," people used to say, "if Scott would only put it all together."
Well, they can stop wondering. For the first time in his five-year NBA career, the 6'4" Scott feels comfortable. At week's end, he led Los Angeles in scoring, and throughout the season he has been, according to coach Pat Riley, the Lakers' most dependable player. "Well, I suppose I was always a little happier than I looked to most people," said Scott recently, smiling as he hugged his five-year-old son, Thomas, outside the Forum.
Pity he didn't show it sooner, for Scott, who was raised on 104th St. and Sixth Avenue in Inglewood, only 14 blocks from the Forum, has been a Laker fan for a long time. He and his Morningside High buddies frequently sneaked into the Forum to watch L.A. play. Their tactics were simple but effective: One of them would distract a guard in a security booth at the entrance to a tunnel leading to the players' door—"We alternated because the guy who did the talking couldn't get into the game that night," Scott said—while the others duck walked under the window of the booth. Once past it, they could sprint for the unguarded door.
Scott played his college ball at Arizona State, where he daydreamed about joining the Lakers and even of leaving tickets for his high school buddies. When he did land with Los Angeles, though, the circumstances were less than ideal. The San Diego Clippers had made him the fourth pick of the 1983 draft—he was the first guard selected—but traded him along with center Swen Nater to the Lakers in the preseason for the popular Norm Nixon, Eddie Jordan and two future second-round draft choices. "It was very, very tough," said Scott. "The fans didn't take to me, and some of my teammates didn't take to me. Not only was I replacing Norm, but I was coming into a situation with four or five All-Stars and was expected to step in and play.
April 17, 1988
"I think Magic understood me better than anyone. His situation when he came here wasn't so friendly, either, although he never showed it the way I did. He was a young kid, coming in and being the team leader, and everyone tested him, doubted him for a long time. He was the one who really took to me from the beginning, talked to me, tried to get me to put the outside stuff behind me."
A starter since his rookie season of 1983-84, Scott didn't have his first consistent season until 1986-87, but it ended on something of a sour note, even though the Lakers won the title. Scott was abysmal against the Celtics in Games 3, 4 and 5 of the finals, shooting 28% from the floor and scoring a total of only 19 points.
"The main thing he lacked was the ability to miss three in a row and keep on shooting," said Magic Johnson. "But the first Celtic game this season at Boston Garden was a breakthrough for him."
Scott played a solid game and scored 21 points as L.A. won 115-114. In a Feb. 14 rematch at the Forum, he burned the Celtics with a career-high 38 points. "No one single thing turned it around for me this season," said Scott. "Experience, feeling like I was really a part of the team. And Magic. He talks to me all the time, instructs me, gets me ready. All those things helped."