It’s hard to believe there’s any doubt about the Los Angeles Lakers needing to get rid of Byron Scott the moment they want to start winning, but there are rumors suggesting that a good finish from the Lakers, meaning that the young players like D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. show any kind of progress.
The Lakers owe Scott $8.5 million over two season after this one is through, and while teams have fired head coaches with more money on the books than that, a lot depends on how the Lakers value their prospects next season. If they figure they have a shot at finally making the playoffs after what will be a three year drought by the end of this season, Scott needs to go. He hasn’t coached a playoff team in a while. He hasn’t made a team better or improved some of his players in a very long time, and maybe he has never done that, even when making the NBA finals during his stint with the (then) New Jersey Nets.
But some people, like Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, think that a good finish from Scott (what is good finish after going 10-41 up until now?) that includes Russell, Randle, Clarkson and Nance showing progress can win him another year at the job. Yes, he’s 31-102 with the Lakers, following being 64-166 with the Cavaliers. And yet someone who has shown no interest or ability in making the future of this franchise better, preferring to keep on feeding the narcissism and ego of Kobe Bryant, has a window of opportunity to turn it all around.
People close to the organization think this season’s final 2½ months are a trial of sorts. It would help Scott’s chances if the young players showed growth and the games were more competitive. There has to be hope, not despair.
Russell, the third overall pick in the draft, is averaging 12 points on 41.5% from the field and 32.9% from beyond the arc. It’s been better for him to stay away from Bryant as he comes off the bench, but the Lakers should be working on the Russell-Clarkson backcourt, and giving Russell plenty of time to mesh with Clarkson and Randle. Russell himself has said a number of times he doesn’t feel like he understands what Scott wants from him. He won’t be the first.
Clarkson, a free agent at the end of this season (restricted), is averaging 15.2 points on 44.1% from the field. Improvement? No. Simply more minutes. His per minute numbers and percentages have barely budges. Randle, in what is basically a rookie season for him, is averaging 11 points with 9.7 rebounds per game. He doesn’t seem to be improving on defense, knowing where to shoot from or becoming a better rebounder, although he does have potential.
But you need to take the numbers for granted. All this comes while playing next to Bryant, who keeps flipping and flopping on how much he wants to help these guys out. And by helping, it means not getting in the way. The Lakers and Scott especially like veterans. He prefers this season to be about Bryant and Lou Williams feeling happy with their playing time and shots while the development? That can hold until the Bryant retirement tour is over. And this coach might end up retaining his job, if somehow he realizes how to develop young players in the next two and half months.
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