Archives For Byron Scott

I really don’t want to write about Byron Scott. In fact, I said the other day, after he made an appearance on ESPN, that I had done my final installment of #byronquotes. I mean, he is no longer the head coach of the Lakers and, with that, his influence is gone. He no longer manages the rotation, can’t bench (insert young Lakers’ player here) in crunch time again, and can’t offer any more quotes that make me roll my eyes and question why he still coaches the team.

Only, that last part isn’t 100% true. No, he’s not the coach so I no longer have to question that part. But, a recent media blitz in the wake of his firing has offered him plenty of opportunity to offer up more eye-roll-enducing quotes that incite reaction amongst Lakers’ fans and media (both local and national) alike. In the thirst for Lakers’ news, it is Byron Scott who is attempting to fill the vacuum. And maybe I am contributing to that here. But, after reading more of his comments over the last 24 hours, I simply cannot ignore him anymore. Even against my better judgement. So, here it goes…

Byron Scott seems to be the only person who does not grasp why Byron Scott is no longer the Lakers’ head coach.

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We have written about the Lakers deliberating on Byron Scott’s future as head coach, but a decision has been made. Scott will not return to coach the Lakers for a third season. Per the team’s press release:

“We would like to thank Byron for his hard work, dedication and loyalty over the last two years, but have decided it is in the best interest of the organization to make a change at this time,” said General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

Unbeknownst to me (and many others, I’m assuming), the Lakers held team options on both the third and fourth years of Scott’s contract. This decision then, was made even easier since the team was not eating any salary and could start new next season with a choice to usher in a new era of Lakers’ basketball.

Per Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times, the Lakers will have a long list of candidates for their opening. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports the list will include Warriors’ assistant Luke Walton, Spurs’ assistant Ettore Messina, current ESPN analyst and former Knicks/Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy, and current UCONN head coach Kevin Ollie. That’s already a wide net of candidates, but I’m sure we’ll hear even more names over the coming days and weeks.

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The Lakers are coming off their two worst seasons in franchise history. Consecutive seasons featuring descending wins from 21 to 17 have left the team the butt of jokes and fans anxious about the future of the team. Or, more specifically, the future of the head coach who guided his team to those records.

Waiting is never easy, but waiting is really all we can do. At his exit interview, Mitch Kupchak said he expected to have a sit-down with Scott and Jim Buss within a couple of weeks. That statement came on the heels of reports the team’s top decision makers were either leaning towards keeping Scott on or that fractured ownership and competing agendas would make a change unlikely.

Other reports note the front office is simply trying to decide:

If you ask a vocal subset of Lakers’ fans, they’d probably incredulously ask what is there to deliberate? Scott has the stain of 38 wins over two seasons lording over him. He consistently pointed the finger at his team, and never himself, for the team’s on-court failures. He threw his young players under the bus to the media and jerked around their minutes. He didn’t do an appreciably good job of managing rotations. His schemes were antiquated, ineffective, or both. So, again, what is there to deliberate?

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We might still be basking in the glow of Kobe Bryant bringing in his retirement with an epic farewell performance, but that doesn’t mean the business of the Lakers has stopped. The team performed their exit interviews on Thursday and Friday, and with that we got every player (save Kobe), Byron Scott, and Mitch Kupchak all on the record discussing this past season and looking ahead to the next one.

It’s that looking ahead which has grabbed Lakers’ fans interest, especially in relation to Scott’s status as the head coach. If you ask Scott, he’s confident he will return next season and has sharp words for anyone who questioned his approach this season. ESPN’s Baxter Holmes has the story:

Scott, who has one more guaranteed year on his deal, said he has not yet met with Lakers management to discuss his future with the team, nor has he been given assurances that he’ll coach the team moving forward.

“I don’t need that,” Scott said. “There’s going to come a time where we’re going to talk, I do understand that, and I do understand this business…

Scott has faced heated criticism from Lakers fans and others all season for his tough-love approach and harsh public criticism of the Lakers’ promising young players, whom he frequently moved in and out of the lineup, varying their minutes.

“I roll with the punches because you guys, they, those guys — they’re not in here every day,” Scott said of his critics. “They don’t see what we’re doing in practice. They don’t see how we’re preparing these guys, so they have no clue … all they’re doing is voicing their opinion, and to be honest with you, I’m much smarter than all of them when it comes to basketball.”

To some (okay, to me), Scott’s confidence might seem misplaced. After all, he’s overseen the two worst seasons in franchise history, winning only 38 games in his two seasons as head man. Claiming intellectual superiority — even if doing so while speaking truths about fans and media not having all the information — isn’t the best look when the vessel you’re shepherding keeps running into things and crashing.

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For the season, the Lakers are still 29th in the league in offensive efficiency. Though they have improved a great deal since the All-Star break — they have posted a 106.1 rating, good for 14th in the league for that stretch — they have fallen off that pace since February 26th (103.2 rating since that date) when Byron Scott implemented a “new set” which has become the base of their offense.

Still, the 103.2 rating since the change is still good for 19th over that period and shows marked improvement over their season long numbers. One of the reasons their offense has improved is because they are running more off-ball actions which help promote side to side ball movement. Byron mentioned an impetus to the change was the analytics staff noting the team was near the bottom of the league in the ball changing sides of the floor (and in making passes in general) and wanted to rectify that.

Hence, a new set, more movement, and more passing. While opponents have surely been scouting what the Lakers are doing and, in turn, disrupting some of their actions, it would be hard to argue against the team doing better. It’s right there in the numbers and, if you’ve been watching, in little wrinkles which are showing up each game.

For example, against the Grizzlies on Tuesday, the Lakers ran a little flare screen action which set up a nice Kobe Bryant three pointer:

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It only took 69 games*, but Byron Scott has uttered words that fans have been hoping to hear all season. When it comes to the team’s young players — specifically D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle — Scott says they will be given a longer leash, especially when it comes to 4th quarter playing time. The OC Register’s Bill Oram has the story:

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I have a hard time reading the tea leaves when it comes to what Byron Scott’s future might entail. Last month, when a report surfaced that the Lakers were “torn” on whether Scott would return for a third season as Lakers’ head coach, I was not really surprised. I am sure Scott has backers in the front office (remember, these people hired him) and Scott is Lakers’ family due to his showtime connections.

When that last point is put into the context of the Lakers being a family business, it truly matters. There were whispers for a long time that Dr. Buss was quite fond of Scott and as a coach whose biggest influence is Pat Riley, that connection to the past is strong.

That said, when the aforementioned report surfaced, I also wrote a leak like this signified that Scott also has detractors in the front office. That there’s no reason for a leak like this to come out unless Scott being let go was truly a consideration. And that concerns which go beyond the team’s record and spill into how he’s handled the team’s young players might carry more weight than the circumstances he’s faced with injuries (his first season) and the Kobe retirement tour + incorporating a slew of young players (season two).

Why does this matter today? Well, Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck floated an interesting theory this morning on Scott’s potential future with the organization which adds another variable to the equation:

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The Lakers suffered their second blowout loss to the Grizzlies in three days on Friday, a 112-95 defeat that left much to be desired on both ends of the floor. The team had a defensive rating of 118.4, which is 9 points per 100 possessions worse than their already last in the league level for the season. On offense they were nearly as bad, only posting a 102.0 offensive rating.

Their work offensively was especially poor, though, considering they had actually been playing well on that side of the ball this month. In February the Lakers have posted an offensive rating of 109.8, a mark that would rank 2nd in the league if it took place over the full season. A dip on that end of the floor shouldn’t surprise, the team is 29th in offensive rating for the season so a regression to the mean is coming. But were there other reasons for the drop off?

The answer to that question may lie in the fact that after returning from their three game road trip, head coach Byron Scott decided he wanted to implement a new offense. Bill Oram of the OC Register has the details:

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