Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott is in an extremely precarious situation as the season comes to an end. He is 36-118 in his tenure as head coach and fans have been constantly calling for his dismissal for a large part of this season.
This was a difficult year to manage as the Kobe Bryant farewell tour was the top priority of the organization. But, the Lakers also have a number of young players who need minutes to develop and the onus is on Scott to balance letting the kids grow with giving Kobe his rightful send-off and trying to win some games along the way.
While the Lakers would not fire Scott during this year, they have said that he would be evaluated at the end of the season. That in itself brings up some questions as there are a number of things to look for when evaluating a coach, especially for a team in the position the Lakers are in.
Winning a couple of games down the stretch could bode well, but if the young players struggle down the stretch, could that hurt Scott’s case? The Lakers have struggled with starting games well and at times the energy has seemed low recently, so perhaps turning that around could help Scott.
We asked our panel of experts what they believe needs to happen in order for Scott to keep his job. This is what they had to say:
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): I don’t think there is any doubt that Byron Scott’s future is tied to the young trio of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle. One thing Scott can point to during his time as Lakers head coach has been the development of young players and those players taking another step could be the difference for Scott.
Scott has already said that he will play the young guys down the stretch regardless of what they’ve done to that point in the game so that is a start. Furthermore, Russell and Randle’s improvement this season, as well Jordan Clarkson’s huge second-half of last season are all good things for Scott.
The issue recently, however, has been the Lakers penchant for slow starts. Scott has pointed to a lack of trust among the starting group and Scott would be wise to figure something out on that front as Clarkson, Randle, and Russell playing well together down the stretch would look good for Scott’s cause.
Fixing that issue could lead to a couple more wins for Scott and proving that he can begin winning with a team led by this young core could be enough to garner Scott one more year. Most Lakers fans probably aren’t hoping to hear that, but a Scott return could still be in play.
Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane): It has been a tough couple of seasons for Byron Scott. The Lakers set a team record for fewest wins since moving to Los Angeles last season with 21, and are on pace to break that record this year.
When Scott took the reigns from Mike D’Antoni it was thought that he would improve the team’s porous defense, but this season the Lakers are dead last in defensive efficiency. After two years of futility it appears that Scott may be on thin ice, and the calls for his head have only grown louder within the massive Lakers fan base.
That said, the season isn’t over yet and it’s still possible that the decision is made to keep him around for at least one more season. If Scott wants to increase those chances he needs to prove that the team’s young players are growing thanks to his tutelage. It’s very apparent that much of the rebuilding effort will hinge on the improvements of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson. If Scott can get his young trio clicking as a unit and growing as individuals it would give the team a reason to keep him around.
Additionally, if Scott can show a bit more creativity on both sides of the ball it would go a long way. Scott can shield himself somewhat from the team’s poor results by leaning on the fact that the roster has lacked talent, and if he can prove his versatility by engineering solid defensive schemes against the likes of John Wall, Chris Paul, and James Harden down the stretch it would help his cause.
Of course accomplishing either of those things in the season’s waning days is no easy task. Scott is going to have to fight an uphill battle if he wants to retain his job this summer, and it appears as though the majority of Lakers fans will not be in his corner.
Maximo Gonzales (@MaximoBGonzales): Regardless of the nightmarish seasons over the last couple years, Lakers fans were optimistic going into this season. Their optimism was fed by the notion that coach Byron Scott and the Lakers front office felt that the team was going to be competitive and potentially contend for that coveted 8th spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
However, things got off to a rocky start and haven’t gotten much better since as they are on their way to possibly the worst record in franchise history. And now in what was supposed to be a competitive season in which the purple and gold could entice potential superstar free agents, the season has been dedicated to the Kobe Farewell Tour, and the development of the Lakers’ young core.
The Lakers misguided belief at the beginning of the season has drawn all the criticisms toward Byron Scott. Although I personally believe that the Lakers have already made a decision on his future, I think given the circumstances he’s had to deal with, he could potentially be around for one more year if the Lakers can get some consistent play from the young core.
The main difference between the losses early in the year, and the losses following the All-Star Break, is that the young guys are the ones playing a majority of the minutes. Of course, with more minutes we’ve seen breakout scoring performances from D’Angelo Russell and consistent double-double’s from Julius Randle. And although it is nice to see some light at the end of this long, dark tunnel, it is one that should’ve been shining much sooner.
Another part of giving the young guys more minutes is giving them quality minutes in crunch time. One thing I can’t figure out with Scott is whether he has the development of the young players as a priority, or he really just hates losing games. It really doesn’t matter because the Lakers will more likely lose with whatever lineup he has in there at the end of games anyway, so you might as well just give those late minutes to the young guys.
It’s really a win-win situation at this point of the season because if Clarkson, Randle, and Russell can pull out a victory then that’s great, but if they lose then that just takes us one step closer to keeping our lottery pick this year.
Nathaniel Lastrapes (@NathanielP2): Byron Scott has not provided this young team with any type of stability this season. For the majority of the season, the role of most of the young guys has been unclear. However, it appears that Scott is beginning to feel the pressure from the front office. He has adjusted his perspective in terms of playing the young guys late in the games.
Scott has been rolling with his veteran players down the stretch of close games, even when the young guys are playing well. Too many times has Scott inserted Lou Williams into the game in the fourth quarter when D’Angelo Russell was finding a good rhythm. Now things have changed; Scott vowed to play the young core late in games “no matter what.” This is a welcome change for fans and the young guys alike, but it is not the way Scott has coached all season.
This implies that Scott is feeling the pressure from the front office to do what they say or he is on the hot seat. Scott’s vow to play the young guys no matter what seems to be a direct result of his realization that his job security is not guaranteed.
If Scott even wants a chance at returning to the sideline for the Lakers next season, he needs to continue to cater to the young core of Russell, Randle, and Clarkson. Also, free agency will play a key role in whether or not the Lakers will retain Scott. If a big time free agent like Kevin Durant wants to come to L.A., but doesn’t wanna play for Scott, then the Lakers would likely fire him without hesitation.