Head coach Byron Scott has not been a godsend to the Los Angeles Lakers in his first year, he’s once again presiding over a terrible defense and his offensively-minded club is only 23rd out of 30 teams on that end. He has been a godsend for those of us that cackle from afar, though, documenting his various missteps in a Laker season gone terribly wrong (by design, we think).
Scott hasn’t had an out and out pitched battle with his players so far this season, but with a week to go there is still time to have it out with certain members of his 20-win team. Scott, in his estimation, doesn’t seem to think he’d have many defenders should things go sour in the trenches.
"I got a sense of a whole lot of them I wouldn't want to be in a fox hole with," Scott said after Monday's practice. "I think they'd end up shooting me in the back. So I've got a pretty good sense of the guys that I think are going to be around, that we will build around, build together in this process and go through it."
Only four current Lakers have fully guaranteed contracts for next season, with the team likely to add point guard Jordan Clarkson’s team option to that list while denying the whopper of a $9 million team option on Jordan Hill. With that in place, Scott sure seems to love running plays for Jordan Hill, and the Lakers still seem like the sort of squad that will look to punt the final year of Kobe Bryant’s career in 2015-16 as they ready themselves with a draft pick and cap space-heavy 2016 offseason.
(Hopefully Scott sees fit to play Kobe past the team’s drop out of the playoff race. You’ll recall when Scott laughably suggested he’d only rest Kobe when the Lakers were out of playoff contention earlier in 2015. The Lakers were 12-27 at the time, with a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers coming that night.)
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Of course, Scott is the sort of guy that swears he’s been talking with potential free agents during games. Those supposed discussions would not only act as instances of tampering, but they would also come in full view of several current Laker free agents. Again, you’d have to believe that Scott actually engaged in these sorts of conversations, but you can understand why certain Lakers might not want to dive into the trenches with their current coach.
One of those Lakers under contract for next year (and the season after that) is mercurial shooting guard Nick Young. Nick Young takes a lot of three-pointers, and hates playing defense. Byron Scott hates three-pointers, and talks up a great defensive game (even though his Lakers and Cavaliers were routinely ranked amongst the NBA’s worst in defensive efficiency).
"I consider Nick either a home run- or a strikeout-type guy on the offensive end. Just like I told him, he has to elevate his game. He has to grow as a basketball player if he wants to continue to play in this league for a long time. He has to get better at moving without the ball, he has to be better at defending people a little bit better and be a better off-the-ball defender as well."
Scott isn’t wrong in his assertions, and Young truly has tailed off this season (36 percent from the field, just a tick better from long range) in contributing the lone thing he’s good at.
Still, Scott’s outmoded offense did Young no favors this season, and it’s rather rare for coaches of 20-win teams to be caught frankly discussing the career outlook of a player who is signed through 2018 (Young has a player option for 2017-18). These are two of the reasons why Byron’s particular fox hole is a chilly one.
Again, the Lakers will probably look to tank in 2015-16 again as the franchise seems bereft of free agent options (no star is going to take less money to join a terrible team to watch Kobe hoist 20 shots a night). This means the Lakers will probably keep Scott around next year, and Laker fans will have to work through the purgatory yet again. They’ll come out of it with cap space and another draft pick, possibly, but Laker fans will also have to sit through another 82 games of Byron Scott.
And all the practice quotes that come with that. As a guy that gets to write about the NBA, I don’t mind that in the slightest.
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