The Los Angeles Lakers will open their season tonight with Byron Scott making his debut as their coach as they face the Houston Rockets at Staples Center.
“I’m eager to get this thing started,” Scott said after Monday’s practice at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo. “I wish we were a lot more healthier than we are now.”
Five of the 15 players on the Lakers roster will be unable to play tonight because of injuries, Scott said.
Scott was appointed as the 25th coach in team history on July 28, succeeding Mike D’Antoni, who resigned in April after the Lakers went 27-55, their worst record since moving to Los Angeles in 1960.
Scott played 11 seasons for the Lakers, including as the starting shooting guard on three NBA championship teams in the 1980s. He coached 13 seasons in the NBA, including guiding the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.
Scott was selected as the NBA’s coach of the year for the 2007-2008 season when he was with the New Orleans Hornets.
Tonight’s game will also be the first official game for perennial all-star guard Kobe Bryant since Dec. 17 when he fractured his left knee in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies, forcing him to miss the final 57 games of the season.
“I’m excited to get back out there,” Bryant said. “I can’t say that I haven’t missed the game. I’ve missed it so much.”
When asked what part of the game he missed the most, Bryant responded, “Everything.”
“Being at practice every day, being with teammates every day, the sound of the ball, the squeak of the sneakers, the smell of the leather,” Bryant said. “Absolutely everything.”
When the 36-year-old Bryant plays tonight, he will tie former Utah Jazz guard John Stockton for the most seasons played in the NBA with one team, 19.
Bryant played in six of the Lakers eight preseason games, averaging a team-high 19 points per game.
“The rust every day came off a little bit more,” Scott said. “The last preseason game that he played, he looked really good as far as his fade-away, his elevation, stamina.”
Bryant scored 27 points in 34 minutes against Phoenix last Tuesday in his final preseason game. He was held out of the team’s last two preseason games.
Bryant is expected to play 30-40 minutes tonight, Scott said.
The Lakers roster includes seven newcomers, including two expected to start, point guard Jeremy Lin and forward Carlos Boozer.
The game will start the Lakers “Trees for Threes” initiative. For each 3-point basket the Lakers make at each home game from tonight through March 19, East West Bank will fund the planting of a tree in the Los Angeles area.
On the Lakers Eco Night, March 22, a representative of the bank will present the total number of trees to an official with the nonprofit environmental organization TreePeople, which will conduct the planting.
New dining and drinking options for Laker fans at Staples Center include the Goose Island concession stand outside Section 108 on the Main Concourse which features a variety of craft beers.
Its food offerings include a Chicago-style hot dog, an all-beef Vienna hot dog with tomatoes, nuclear relish, celery salt, sports peppers, onions, mustard, and a pickle spear served on a poppy seed bun; the “Fritos Pie Dog,” a loaded all-beef hot dog with chili, shredded cheddar cheese and Fritos corn chips; and the “Mac & Cheesy Dog,” a loaded all-beef hot dog with macaroni and cheese topped with Cheetos.
California Pizza Kitchen has revamped its menu, adding “The Works” pizza, which is topped with spicy Italian sausage, rustic pepperoni, cremini, mushrooms, mozzarella, red onions, poblano peppers, olives and wild Greek oregano, and the “Chicken Caesar Pizza.”
“Camacho’s Bowl” has been added to the menu at Camacho’s Cantina. It includes the choice of carne asada or chicken tinga, ranchero style pinto beans, seasoned rice, cilantro onions, salsa ranchero, sliced radishes and pickled onion slaw.