Byron Scott Has Been Through Worse Than Cavs' Losing Streak
ORLANDO, Fla. – This isn't the worst thing to happen to Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott. It's not even the worst basketball thing.
Not even close.
Scott may have won three NBA championships as a player and reached the NBA Finals twice as a head coach, but he is no stranger to tough basketball times.
Scott and his Cavs lost their 20th consecutive game Sunday night, 103-87, to the Magic, leaving them just three away from the NBA record for consecutive losses – set by a team on which Scott played a key role.
Scott may have found fame playing alongside Magic Johnson as part of the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers, but he also spent one miserable season with the first-year expansion Vancouver Grizzlies, which lost 23 consecutive games during the 1995-96 season.
"It was harder as a player because I'd never been through anything like that before,'' Scott said Sunday night before the Cavs' game against the Magic. "The first time, I didn't handle it very well.''
Scott declined to elaborate -- there was still a game to be played, after all -- but he told reporters last week in Cleveland that the losing as a player drove him to drink for the first time in his life.
"Coors Light,'' he said, then chuckled.
"I'm not saying it's easier, but I'm able to deal with it better now,'' he said. "Of course, I get down. After games, I'm down. When I go home, I'm down. But by the time I wake up the next day, I'm all right. And I'm ready to go at it again. It's back to work.''
Not only are the Cavs on course to set the NBA record for futility in a season, but they also are chasing a record they already own -- 24 consecutive losses over two seasons -- that they set from March 19 to Nov. 5, 1982. They play the Heat in Miami Monday night, then return home against Indiana Wednesday. They tied the team record for consecutive losses in one season (19) on Friday night at home against Denver.
"I'm not going to say it's the toughest thing. There are tougher things in life than this right now. We have a losing streak, but it's not the end of the world,'' he said. "I just don't look at it as badly as some people do. We still have a bunch of young guys trying to improve.''
The Cavs have lost 30 of their last 31. They have won only once -- in overtime against New York -- since Thanksgiving, marking the most dramatic descent in league history.
When Scott was named Cavs coach this summer -- replacing Mike Brown -- he was inheriting a team that had won 60-plus games in the previous two seasons. It was after the Cavs hired Scott that LeBron James made his dramatic departure to Miami, changing the course of the franchise.
Scott also lost centers Shaquille O'Neal to Boston and Zydrunas Ilgauskas to Miami. Forward Anderson Varejao is out for the season with a torn tendon in his right ankle. Guard Mo Williams is out with a hip flexor. Forward Leon Powe has been out since Jan. 7 with torn meniscus in his right knee. They are starting people like Christian Eyenga, Ramon Sessons and Daniel Gibson.
There is little hope for this season, leaving the Cavs with a rebuilding effort to begin this summer, expecting to finish with the league's worst record and possibly get the No. 1 pick in the June draft. They were not even competitive Sunday, much like they were not competitive Friday at home.
The Magic, meanwhile, were shaking their heads at just the thought of being mired in a slump in which Scott and the Cavs find themselves.
"I don't even want to think about what that's like,'' said Magic center Dwight Howard. "If we had lost 29 of 30, the whole team would be on a suicide watch. Stan (Coach Van Gundy) would be in the hospital.''
The Cavs, meanwhile, have not given up, according to Scott. They have played poorly many times, but they have played consistently hard. Scott said his friends haven't disappeared during the slump, but they don't talk to him about basketball, knowing there is nothing they can say.
His Nets won just 26 games his first year coaching in New Jersey, but they reached the Finals the next two seasons. His Hornets won just 18 games his first year in New Orleans, but they steadily improved. He sees the same thing happening in Cleveland.
"Our team spirit will start to go down as soon as they (his players) see my spirit go down,'' Scott said. "And they aren't going to see that. I'm a fighter. I've been here before. I'm going to come back every day and go back to work. Then get ready to play the next game.''