Can coach Byron Scott turn it around in Cleveland? The easy answer is, "Doesn't matter. He'll be coaching the Lakers next season anyway."
Sadly for Scott, this no longer is possible. Coaching the worst NBA team this season and then coaching the potential three-time defending world champion Lakers next season would be the oddest leap in coaching since Lane Kiffin was hired by the Oakland Raiders.
With Phil Jackson on his final tour as Lakers coach, the LA stars once seemed to be in line so Scott could return to where he won three world championships playing for the Showtime Lakers in the 1980s.
Given his current misfortune, Scott has become a long shot as Jackson's successor. The Lakers run the triangle offense. Scott runs the Princeton offense. A much smoother transition is for the Lakers simply to promote longtime assistant Brian Shaw, who coincidentally turned down the Cleveland job last summer before Scott took it.
When Scott agreed to become Cavaliers coach, LeBron James was just entering free agency flirting stage and there was still a chance he could re-sign with Cleveland. Also, Jackson had not yet announced this season would be his last.
Scott has a three-year deal without an out clause, but very well could be one-and-done. Scott last week said he does not fear losing his job this season.
The Cavs snapped the longest losing streak in pro sports history at 26 straight with Friday night's overtime victory against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers. The Cavs (9-45) now boast a one-game win streak and Sunday night will try to prevent Washington (0-25) from winning its first road game of the season.
How long before Cleveland can become a contender again? "As far as I'm concerned, next year," Scott said a few hours before his team got cranked 112-57 inside Staples Center against the Lakers on Jan. 11. "Once the year is over, next year we're going to obviously make changes to our roster. We got to add some pieces to it. That's how I look at it."
Scott, who coached the New Orleans Hornets during their relocation days in Oklahoma City (2005-07), has pulled off some impressive turnarounds as an NBA coach.
He led the New Jersey Nets in back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003 in just his second and third seasons, and was named NBA Coach of the Year after leading the New Orleans Hornets to a franchise-best 56-26 record in 2007-2008.
With the Nets, a 39-year-old Scott doubled his win total from 26 to 52 after his first season, which is only one game less than the Thunder's 27-win improvement last season.
In New Orleans, the Hornets went from 18-64 his first season in 2004-05, to 38-44, to 39-43, to 56-26 and Southwest Division co-champs.
There also have been rapid falls from grace for Scott, who was fired during the season in each of his previous coaching stints.
Scott's impressive one-year jumps are easy to pinpoint.
The Nets didn't have point guard Jason Kidd during Scott's first year, but acquired Kidd and drafted rookie forward Richard Jefferson for the next season.
The Hornets didn't have point guard Chris Paul during Scott's first year, but drafted Paul No. 4 overall the following year and also acquired Desmond Mason. Center Tyson Chandler came the year after that. The year after that, long-range shooter Peja Stojakovic stayed healthy and played 77 games.
Scott was blessed with two of the best point guards of the past two decades. What coach wouldn't want that? Could an All-Star point guard save him in Cleveland? Perhaps a home-state hero?
James, an Akron native, polished up Cleveland during his seven-year stay, and a potential in-state savior awaits in Ohio State freshman and Columbus native Jared Sullinger, who is slated as the No. 1 pick in next June's draft. However, thanks to the NBA's draft lottery, having the league's worst record does not guarantee the Cavs the top pick.
Can Sullinger become as significant as James - or as Kidd or Paul, for that matter? The easy answer is no, which eventually could lead to another midseason departure for Scott.