In their annual rite of passage in which accountability is avoided, deflected and ignored, the Lakers, once again, pretended the illusion was the truth. Acting in concert with one another as if they did not do this, as if it wasn’t their hand stirring the pot of mediocrity and pretending it was brilliance, the Lakers (again) refused to admit to failure.
These are the facts. It was the Lakers decision to hire Byron Scott. It was their decision to hire Scott after they fired Mike D’antoni, after they fired Mike Brown. It was their decision to employ a coach who had ancestral blood, a former Laker- which means what exactly?
Byron Scott is who he has always been, a straightforward, direct, hard-ass with a poverty story who had success as a coach more than a decade ago and since then has done nothing but enable lottery teams, year after year after year. Give him credit for the development of Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving and he did have an impact on Jason Kidd despite Kidd’s denials but as far as nurturing a team of individuals into a team of selfless winners, when has that ever happened?
After winning two games and losing fifteen, after his continual yanking of D’angelo Russell in and out of the lineup, after his offense which isn’t an offense at all but a whoever has the ball shoots strategic melodrama, after his deplorable defense and his whimsical rotations and his inability to stick to any kind of Kobe Bryant structure, a Lakers source told Sam Amick of USA Today Byron Scott wouldn’t be fired because he was an “innocent bystander” in the Kobe Bryant retirement tour.
An organization not known for their humor was now telling jokes. An innocent bystander? When has Scott done anything that was innocent? He is very deliberate in everything, a micro manager that doesn’t believe freedom is how young players grow. A Pat Riley clone, Scott is attached to toughness as the primary principle in how basketball character is built and perhaps for some personalities his style is effective. But this Lakers team was built to fail. They are young and inexperienced and their individual games are far from complete.
Julius Randle lacks explosion around the rim making it impossible to finish in traffic but he has all of the intangibles of a great rebounder. D’angelo Russell is a scorer who can make the occasional brilliant pass and the frequent ill timed pass/turnover but he is not a playmaker. His game is not about making other players better. Jordan Clarkson was a find, a steal even, a nice scorer but not a superior one, a 16-18 point a night player who is athletic and quick but not explosive. Clarkson makes bad decisions with the ball; he is not a combo guard. Anthony Brown has yet to play even as he was drafted for his defense, something this team is not good at executing. Larry Nance Jr. has upside. He plays hard, has a nice touch on his baseline shot and is aggressive in the paint.
Those are the young guys. An effective coach would develop a system that they can thrive in and that is specifically tied to their development. Instead, the Scott system is a modern version of an antiquated strategy that needs to be buried.
The Lakers take three point shots because three point shots have to be taken. The reasoning is suspect. This is a shooting, passing league, this new NBA, and yet the Lakers are one of the worst shooting teams because they are one of the worst passing teams. Passing creates open shots. That is on Scott and what he values and what he is teaching. That is his responsibility as a leader. As is player development which Scott doesn’t think much of. Last month he said that player development isn’t as important to him as winning. But on this team what is the point of gutting out almost wins when the young guys are missing learning opportunities?
The Lakers veterans, the ones Scott should be getting the most out of, have been mediocre. Brandon Bass looks like his ankles are buried in cement. He can’t finish, he is late getting to rebounds. Roy Hibbert has devolved into a man who can stand there but is pretty worthless when asked to move. Lou Williams shoots a lot and he misses a lot. Kobe Bryant is old and by his own admission he doesn’t have the legs to dig from the well. So he settles for what his legs allow him to do, three pointers. Except he has never been a good three point shooter. He has been average at best. He is terrible at it now. And what’s up with his minutes?
Pre-season, Scott said he wanted Kobe to finish the year by walking off the court and he would be strict on the minutes doled out. And then Kobe played 31 minutes in the third game of the season. Two games later he played 31 minutes. And then 32 minutes against the Knicks. 32 minutes against Dallas. 35 minutes against Detroit. 37 minutes against Toronto. 31 minutes and 34 minutes against Portland. 33 minutes against the Pacers. 31 minutes against Philadelphia. And 34 minutes last night against the Wizards. This for a 20 year veteran.
Scott can’t even stick to his own guidelines.
In case the Lakers were wondering, the definition of an innocent bystander is a person who has done nothing wrong and then out of the blue something random and unforeseen happens. An innocent bystander is a victim of a catastrophe and it is not their fault; it changes the arc of their life.
The Lakers catastrophe is Byron Scott. It is their fault for hiring him and they are responsible for this season and Byron Scott is not a victim. Byron Scott is not a victim. There is nothing innocent about his role in the Lakers debacle this season. Everything that has happened to the Lakers is because of Scott. It is not accidental. He has done this on purpose.
photo via llananba