Tarik Black’s journey to becoming the Lakers’ full time starting center has been a bumpy one. First acquired by the team as a waiver pick up in his rookie season, Black saw good minutes on an injury decimated team in Byron Scott’s 1st season. Black posted a 16.3 PER with the team that season and looked like a player who could contribute the following season.
Only that didn’t happen. Not at all, actually. In their second year together, Byron Scott promptly jerked Black around by limiting his role and (as he did nearly every other young player) speaking poorly of him in the press. This, from a January 2016 column on Scott and Black:
“Go ask Tarik what I told him this summer,” Scott said before the Lakers hosted the Houston Rockets on Sunday at Staples Center. “Just ask him what I told him he needs to do to stay in this league for 10-15 years. When he gives you the answer, come back and tell me and I’ll tell you if that’s exactly what I told him.”
Naturally, a handful of reporters approached Black for his recollection.
“He told me to be a beast, get every rebound and play aggressively,” Black said, reflecting on his exit interview with Scott and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. “They told me to work on my skillset. I’m better in my mid range with my size and height in the NBA.”
Okay, that seems rather tame (and probably incorrect since Black is not “better in the mid-range”) but there’s more:
But Scott reported he told Black he wants him to model his game after an NBA All-Rookie first team member (Denver forward Kenneth Faried), a Hall of Famer (Dennis Rodman) and a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (Ben Wallace).
“He hasn’t done that yet,” Scott said. “They played balls out, full of energy and aggressive. They didn’t care about the offensive end. … That’s what he has to do to be an integral part of any team.”
“He has been OK. What he gives me off the bench, I don’t know,” Scott said. “He hasn’t done anything spectacular. But he hasn’t done anything devastating where you say, lets send him down to the D-League. But when you’re bringing guys off the bench. You want them to have an impact. He doesn’t have that.”
I don’t rehash all of this to trash the former coach. He had his opinions and they impacted how much Black played — which was not much at all. Black ended up playing in only 39 games for a total of 496 minutes last season. But in a season where Scott leaned heavily on Roy Hibbert (who was terrible) and behind him Brandon Bass (who was good) at C, it seemed odd that Black couldn’t get more minutes (especially at Hibbert’s expense). Even odder was the excuse that Black somehow wasn’t playing hard in his minutes.