As if you expected the Los Angeles Lakers to simply play some bad basketball, lose lots of games and go quietly into the 2016 Draft, you were wrong. Somehow, this bad Lakers team is back at the top of the news cycle. This time, it’s not the basketball. It’s not Kobe Bryant either.
We need to talk about Byron Scott
Or, more importantly, Byron Scott needs to not talk.
Scott’s Lakers had an all-time terrible season in 2015; a season that started badly with Julius Randle’s rookie year ending eight minutes after it started and saw Kobe Bryant’s transformation into crotchety old man pick up pace.
For some reason, significant hype built up around this Lakers team over the course of the summer. Projections for 30 or 35 wins appeared.
Then the games started. Kobe couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat now. What’s more worrying is that unlike in previous seasons, Bryant’s bad production is a stark example of his age. His trusted shots take him so long to set up defenders are in position before he’s ready to shoot.
Which leads us to Scott.
Exhibit A: Is Byron Scott watching the same Kobe as we are?
Byron Scott said he’s fine with Kobe Bryant’s shot selection right now.
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) November 2, 2015
That’s just silly. Bryant is routinely gobbling up possessions and objectively hurting the Lakers offense. His shots aren’t falling. His shots aren’t open. His shots are even coming with plenty of time left on the shot-clock with teammates in far better position or (say it quietly) with better players simply watching him pound the ball and heave up another dreadful attempt.
But Byron Scott is okay with this because Byron Scott is not a good coach. He’s an especially bad coach for this Lakers team as presently constructed.
A young team needs a very special kind of coach. They need a coach not afraid to let the inexperience show through. They need a coach who will let his kids play through their mistakes and cold spells. They need a coach who will let his young charges figure out how to break down a defensive shell or stop a hot scorer.
Instead, Scott is riding with the older stars. He’s letting Kobe dominate the offense. He’s not featuring D’Angelo Russell or Jordan Clarkson or Julius Randle as much as he should with a roster practically begging to showcase young talent as the competitive losses mount up.
Exhibit B: Byron Scott doesn’t know point guards.
Scott said when Lakers worked out Mudiay he “didn’t think he was a true point guard” & “didn’t think he was a guy who made great decisions.”
— Bill Oram (@billoram) November 2, 2015
Now, this is the point where Scott is somewhat defensible. The Lakers did draft D’Angelo Russell with Emmanuel Mudiay still on the board, and that is fine. Russell is a terrific prospect who the Lakers can pencil in as their point guard going forward.
However, dismissing Mudiay as not a “true point guard” is incorrect. Mudiay is making a bad Denver Nuggets team at least bearable, scoring 20.6 points and dishing 8.7 assists per 100 possessions. He’s a point guard and a fine one at that. Yes, 10.3 turnovers per 100 possessions are alarmingly high, but it speaks to Mudiay exploring the offense he plays in and asking questions of his teammates. And again, his coach is happy to let him experiment and learn how to play in the NBA.
Scott’s words this week won’t lead to him being sacked, that’s not what I’m advocating. His managerial style, however, could cause more harm than good so long as Scott continues to prioritize experience over youth.
Those optimistic Lakers fans who think their team is going to progress under Scott are in for a long winter.