For inspiration in times of stress, Byron Scott reaches for the book.
Not the Bible, although he might have one of those around, too.
The volume he reaches for is a dog-eared copy of Basketball Digest, March '88 issue. On the cover is a real nice photo of Rolando Blackman and Derek Harper, and the headline: "Dallas' Backcourt Is the NBA's Best!"
If Basketball Digest wanted a second opinion, they might have come to Byron Scott, who partners with Magic Johnson in what a lot of people consider to be a fairly decent backcourt, especially if measured in diamond NBA championship rings.
Every time Scott sees Harper-Blackman on the court, he seethes. He shuffles his feet on the hardwood like an angry bull and gets worked up to play some angry basketball.
Poor Rolando and Derek didn't write that story, didn't commission it or endorse it, but every time they see Scott, they pay the price for it.
Wednesday night Byron went off like a Roman candle against the Dallas Les Miserables in Mismatch 2 of the Western Conference championship series.
Scott scored 30 points, 21 in the first half.
"Strictly awesome," said Laker guard Wes Matthews. "He's got the defense so confused. He's just ringin' in the J, or givin' the simple head fake and goin' to the hole."
Motivated, perhaps, by that magazine article?
"He talks about it all the time," Matthews said. "He's not happy about it. Him and Magic have proved it all year, that they're the best. I'd be (peeved), too."
Some guys can't play mad, some guys don't read magazine articles. Byron does both. Hey, whatever works for you.
He's probably got the passage underlined where Laker Coach Pat Riley is quoted as saying, "Ro (Blackman), to me, has always been the consummate off-guard in the league."
In this particular series, it's hard to tell if Byron has simply elevated his game to a scintillating standard, playing even better than he did during the regular season, or if he's just taking advantage of a team of wimps.
Playing the Jazz and now the Mavericks has been like going from the Bruise Brothers to the Snooze Brothers.
I won't say the Mavericks have played soft the first two games, but you know how the Lakers' mascot is Jack Nicholson? I hear the Mavericks' courtside counterpart is Mr. Whipple, the TV grocer with the soft toilet tissue fixation.
But to sell Byron short in his playoff efforts, which have been spectacular, would be to anger a lot of people, not the least of whom is Jerry West, the Lakers' general manager and the man who brought Scott to Lakerland.
"You people have not done him justice since he's been here," said West, sitting in a corner of the Laker locker room after the game. He spoke like a lawyer whose client had just been sentenced to hang for littering.
"It's a crime what's been done to him," West continued, none to jovially.
What crime? Selling Scott short?
"You'd better believe it," West said.
After watching Scott all year, and especially Wednesday night, I tend to believe.
Scott scored 12 points in the first quarter, mostly by going to the hoop, on fast breaks, with a bad attitude. He probably had that magazine tucked in the waistband of his Laker pants. On one break, he took a Magic pass on the left wing, faked Harper into the movie-star seats, and went home for the jam. On one second-half drive, he went around 6-9 Sam Perkins and over and through Blackman, for a three-point play and an 18-point Laker lead.
Scott has scored 20 or more in seven of the last eight games. Always a decent complement to Magic Johnson, Scott this season was one of the two or three most improved players in the league.
More confidence, more verve and nerve. No more hesitation in his shot, no reluctance to drive into the heart of the defense, although the words "heart" and "defense" probably shouldn't be used in referring to the Mavericks these first two games.
"He's really come into his own," Riley said Wednesday, referring to Scott, not Blackman. "He's added the drive to his game. He'll be the best off-guard in the game, if he isn't now. I throw Michael Jordan into a different category."
John MacLeod, the coach of the Mavericks, said: "He's been on fire since training camp. I've never seen any one as consistently hot as he is."
The old Byron always went down and down, scoring-wise, as the playoffs progressed. This is the new Byron, and he's going up, up and away. In a season where the play of the Lakers' three main guys--Magic, Kareem and Worthy--has fallen off slightly for a variety of reasons, Scott's game has risen to the occasion. He's a main Laker now. You'd better believe it.
Now Byron's only worry is that Basketball Digest will put him on the cover.