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L.A. Visit Brings Back Memories

June 05, 2002|Elliott Teaford

Byron Scott gathered the New Jersey Nets around him before their practice Tuesday afternoon at the Lakers' training facility in El Segundo. It was good to be home, but it also was time to get down to the business of preparing to face the two-time defending champions.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals is tonight at Staples Center.

"I think we understand that even though it's a homecoming for me, it's also a business trip," said Scott, a former Laker guard and the current Net coach, who grew up in Inglewood, in the shadow of the Forum.

"It's going to be very emotional for me [tonight]. It is home for me. When I was here with Jerry Buss and Jerry West, it was the best organization in basketball. It is going to be very emotional up until the ball is tossed up."

A number of Nets made similar comments. After all, Scott is not the only one with a Southern California connection.

Brandon Armstrong, a reserve guard, went to Pepperdine.

Jason Collins, a backup center, graduated from Harvard-Westlake High in North Hollywood.

Lucious Harris, a reserve guard, played at Long Beach State and is a Los Angeles native.

Richard Jefferson, a backup forward, was born in L.A., but went to high school in Phoenix and attended Arizona.

Brian Scalabrine, a reserve forward, was born in Long Beach and played at USC.

Keith Van Horn, a starting forward, graduated from Diamond Bar High.

None of the players has the ties to the Lakers that Scott does.

He was, after all, an integral part of the Lakers' "Showtime" teams of the 1980s, playing opposite Magic Johnson in the backcourt.

"I was a fan of the Lakers when I was younger, especially in high school," Van Horn said. "When they would win, I would jump up and down in my parents' home.... I couldn't have dreamed it any better than when I was 10 years old and dreaming of playing in the NBA Finals. I'm here. Back home."


The Nets have cast themselves as the gutty little underdogs to the Lakers in the Finals--just as the Sacramento Kings did in the Western Conference finals.

When forward Kenyon Martin was asked to plead his case for a Net victory to a majority of basketball fans around the globe who believe the Lakers will win this series, he bristled.

"Majority?" Martin asked. "It's all of them. It's everybody. If we haven't proved to people that we can play at this point, we're not going to do it. If we win, people will probably say it's just a fluke. I'm tired of pleading my case."


Scott and Kobe Bryant played together with the Lakers for one season, in 1996-97, Scott's last and Bryant's first. Scott recalled a hyperkinetic Bryant arriving two hours before practice, dribbling a basketball around in the dark while Scott took treatment simply to prepare for the upcoming workout.

"Kobe is a great kid," Scott said. "He's a very special person."

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