Byron Scott and the Los Angeles Lakers continue to be the worst-matched team and coach in the NBA. As Kobe Bryant nears retirement and several young players with potential attempt to establish themselves as long-term fixtures, Scott has doubled down on winning as many games as possible this season even when the Lakers' ceiling seems relatively low. Naturally, the win-now attitude has led to a 2-11 start, worst in the West and ahead of only the winless Philadelphia 76ers across the entire league.
Through it all, Scott has stuck to his old-school ways and professed that the youngsters will not be allowed to play through their mistakes. But the same does not go for Kobe, who apparently is allowed to soak up possessions with isolation jumpers as often as he wants. When quizzed by Bill Oram of The Orange County Register on the effect of Bryant's shooting habits on the team's ball movement, Scott essentially gave the franchise icon a pass:
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) November 23, 2015
This quote sums up Scott's approach to the season astonishingly well. Past accomplishments drive the team's game plan irrespective of what might be best for the future or present, to the point where Bryant still plays a superstar's role while shooting 33.1 percent from the field on 16.6 attempts per game with the worst true shooting percentage on record out of the 774 seasons in which a player averaged 16 or more shots. There don't appear to be team concepts so much as player-specific ones. Kobe can play one way with zero push-back at the same time that younger guards like Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell face criticism for lesser sins.
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Despite all evidence to the contrary, it's possible to argue that Kobe has earned this privilege given his legacy and unprecedented level of popularity in Los Angeles. Yet Scott and the Lakers front office seem to have made no effort to use him in a way that allows the rest of the team to develop. Bryant is tied for the team lead in minutes per game (31.1) and has logged at least 35 in two of the Lakers' past three games, which suggests he's only becoming more of a focus. He's so important that he can take as many shots as he does and still make the not entirely unreasonable claim that he moves the ball better than anyone else on the team.
Because, yes, the Lakers really do have lots of players that struggle to move the ball. This chart proves as much:
— Contrarian Barbarian (@basquiatball) November 23, 2015
This stat does not capture everything that goes into quality ball movement, but it does indicate that the Lakers have several players who could stand to commit themselves to scoring within the flow of the offense. On the other hand, Bryant's percentage is so much higher than those of the other guards that it seems odd to criticize several of them. (Julius Randle at least has the excuse of doing most of his work around the basket.) It's a team-wide issue that has little to do with experience.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, their current setup makes it very difficult to pose any matter as a team-wide issue. They have gone all-in with Kobe as he winds down his career, stuck with a coach who refuses to plan for the future, and provided little wiggle room to change things up. It looks increasingly likely that they are going to have to wait out the present situation for things to get better. It remains to be seen if any damage occurs in the meantime.
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