Let me start this post by stating outright that without a doubt in my mind Byron Scott is the absolute worst coach to ever cross his arms on a Laker sideline. He preaches defense and ball movement with the Princeton offense however the on court performance of the team tells a story of a worsening defensive efficiency and an atrocious offense that seems to be more focused on iso plays with a select few players than a free flowing offense as the Princeton offense is supposed to teach via ball movement and constant motion. Byron is more intent on delegating blame to everyone except himself to the point of enragement for the fans and players. That said I will start from the beginning.
Mike D’Antoni resigns
On May 1st 2014, much to the chagrin of myself and many of the former Laker such as the greatest of them all @MagicJohnson.
Mike D’Antoni resigned as the Laker coach after producing the 2nd worst season in franchise history (27-55) at the time and many Laker’s and Laker fans were ecstatic at the news that Mike ‘Antoni, as many called him, was stepping down as coach. I, as many Laker fans, would come to regret this in the near future. My quick note for MDA is that he is an excellent coach, however being an excellent coach and being an excellent Lakers coach is a completely different monster all together. Looking back on the season that was 13’-14’ injuries had absolutely destroyed the team including Kobe out for essentially the entire season. All things considered the fact that we had 27 wins that season was a testament to MDA’s ability to coach and uplift scrubs and D-League players….. Anyone know where Earl Clark is….. Or Kendal Marshall?
Hail the Return of a hero or So we thought
On July 28th,2014 after what the Lakers front office claimed, was an extensive coaching search, the Lakers found their man in a former Showtime Shooting Guard, defensive Maestro(as a player), and former broadcast figure head with TWC, Byron Scott had returned to the Lakers as the new head coach via @ramonashelburne.
I like many Laker fans were extremely happy to have a Laker alum back in the fold, not to mention that he had been to 2 finals and led the new Orleans Hornets to a couple of playoff appearances. He came in preaching Defense Defense Defense, and I being a very naïve/desperate Laker fan ate it up like it was a nice prime juicy steak. It made even more sense because the all-time Laker great Magic Johnson was in total approval as well as @EricPincus posted
There was no way this was going to end badly. Scott knew what it meant to be a Laker coach, and he could lead us back to the promise land. Not to mention the fact that our best player, Kobe Bryant, was returning the next season and he despised MDA’s system, not to mention he was a former protégé of Byron’s in his rookie season. Bryant approved of this hire and that was also a good sign. I had refused to believe the detesters like Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) and what he wrote the same day.
I was horrendously wrong.
Slow Decay to Irrelevance
The 2014 off season was all about going after Carmelo Anthony then if that failed, which it did, focus on the draft and holding on to cap space for the 2015 off season and making a run at Lamarcus Aldridge with the max slot that we were poised to have. There was also a chance that if we were bad enough or “tanked” we could hold on to our pick for the 2015-16 draft which looked like it was going to be another loaded draft. 2014 started very ominously with a season ending injury to our #7 draft pick Julius Randle who went down with a broken leg after only playing 15 mins in the first game against the loathed Rockets and Dwight Howard. With this and Kobe going down with another season ending injury tank train won out and the Lakers once again dealing with injuries and mediocre play ran up a 21-61 the worst record percentage wise in Franchise history. One good thing that came out of this season was the 2nd round pick the lakers paid the wizards for choosing Jordan Clarkson, who turned into a 1st team all-rookie and a really explosive offensive player. Most, including myself, chalked that up to the lack of actual players due to injuries, however the stats told a different story that I had not looked at before. Courtesy of Basketball Reference
2013-2014 Mike D’Antoni as Coach (scrubs)
The DRTG 110.6 was actually exactly the same in both seasons, however in all other categories the team was worse under Scott. This should’ve thrown alarm bells up but they didn’t and I still believed with keeping the pick and gaining some FA’s we could improve. Still in Byron I trusted.
Decay to…. What?
Lamarcus was the big ticket free agent that was available for the 2015 off season and the Laker’s through everything at him in the first meaning, accept what basketball would look like with LA in a Laker uniform. This really was due to a lack of anything on court wise to show him though it was turned into a media fiasco about the fact that the laker brass went into the meeting with endorsements and business propositions rather than basketball breakdowns as to how the Laker’s would use LA. In the end Lamarcus did give the lakers another chance with a Mitch and Byron only meeting though he spurned the Lakers for “basketball reasons” and went to the Spurs and continued his fantastic play(who could blame him). In the end waiting for Aldridge proved to be a mistake for all the major FA’s that year signed with other teams and we ended up taking on big man Roy Hibbert from the Pacers. Going from playoff bound possibilities to save more cap room 2015-16 was supposed to be a season of improve the young guys so that the big FA market in 2016’s off season would show that the Laker’s were once again an up and coming young team that would need that one name to kick start the rebuild and lead us back into the playoffs for 2016-17. That notion turned south faster than you coud say Man Up. Maybe it was frustration that opened my eyes, but Byron’s offense had grown atrocious. His defense even more so.
Fortunatly the Laker’s were not only able to keep their draft pick, but were able to move up from 4th to 2nd and chose an exciting rookie out of Ohio State D’Angelo Russel. Russel with the passing ability most scouts hadn’t seen since Magic Johnson was a solid 6’5 guard and had the attitude and talent to be the Laker’s future super star once the inevitable retirement of Kobe Bryant. With the surprise rise from Clarkson, the return of Julius Randle, the addition of D’Angelo Russel, and the return of a fully healthy Kobe Bryant the Lakers may not have looked Playoff contending, but the roster certainly looked better than the year before.
I will be the first to tell you that I had predicted at least 35 wins, a loss of the 2016 draft pick and a massive improvement from the young guys that would show the Free Agent’s that the Lakers were on the rise and this was the spot to be once again. Byron proved me wrong and it was apparent after 5-6 games that something was horribly wrong with the Lakers and all signs pointed to the coach. Byron’s offensive sets were mostly Iso to Kobe or Lou and had no creativity what so ever. His stick to the rotation attitude was just as frustrating. For me the most frustrating thing about the D was his stick to your man and only your man ideal. With 2 guards on the court that were 6’5 and could guard both positions, the lack of switching was infuriating. The times that Russel and Clarkson did switch they were pretty lock down despite the poor or nonexistent defense that became incredibly forth front with Clarkson. Also Byron’s intent on only putting Clarkson on the opposing team’s best player despite the potential that Russel showed was even more infuriating. Things only seemed to get worse when Kobe announced that this would be his final season. Going from being Byron to being a kobe focused Byron was even more aggravating.
At this point I had jumped way off the Byron Scott train and was now a leader of the tar and feather Byron train. He had turned the Lakers into a Joke and his post-game interviews even more so. Constant berating of his young players and constant “Man up” and “they didn’t come ready to plays”. One particular moment that I will never forget was 3/15/2016 facing the Sacramento Kings Byron called a TO with .7 seconds left in the 3rd quarter simply because he thought he could advance the ball, which is not allowed at this time and losing a time out. For me the most infuriating thing Byron did was he would berate and demean his young players for things that his veterans did on a consistent basis without a word on them. Kobe was on his final season but he should not have been excluded from the same criticisms the kids faced. This is just bad coaching beyond the X’s and O’s. There were many instances throughout the season in which Kobe would should an errant and contested 3 pointer then watch as his assignemnet would run the opposite side of the ball and get an easy hoop. No comment or word from Byron on these plays, but Russel loses his man on an off screen and Byron immediately benches him. The 2015-16 season turned into the absolute worst season in franchise history not only numbers wise (17-65), but the team itself for the first time in history looked absolutely lost and defeated. The Lakers had literally hit Rock bottom due to the ineptitude of Byron Scott. The only redeeming part about this season was a 60 point outing in the final game of Kobe Bryant’s career which will go down in history as one of his top 5 games in his 20 year career.
The Last Word on the end of an Era
At the start of this post I stated that it was important for me to stress my disapproval of Byron, though I feel that the last segment did that for me, I stress this again, because I will give Byron the props he deserves in one particular area. Byron was very good at being a Laker coach. Now before you go crazy and block my twitter account, I’ll tell you why I feel that way. Throughout this entire process and this debacle of a season he has handled the media and social media relatively well, despite the “hacking” of his IG at the beginning of the year. Byron has handled everything the ferocious LA media and fans have thrown at him. Mike D’Antoni overall is better at X’s and O’s than Byron, and there is no argument for that at all, but D’Antoni was not a good Laker coach because he couldn’t handle the Media in LA, and that lead to his eventual downfall. I recall a few years ago when D’Antoni was hired initially he had a conference and specifically brought up Pau Gasol and where he fit in with Dwight Howard. He hesitated to answer even studdering at one point, and the media absolutely ate him alive for it thus leading to his resignation (though arguments can be made that he was facing a lame duck season that he did not want to deal with). Byron was unwavering and unrelenting with his answers, and his discussions with the media even going as far as slightly insulting the fans in his exit interview by saying that he knows more than all the fans about basketball. This can be true but it was unnecessary to say.
Overall despite Byron’s ability to handle the media the one thing he couldn’t handle is the standard X’s and O’s of coaching a modern NBA team and there really isn’t a discussion or argument for Byron anymore. Sure you can say that Kobe’s Farwell tour was the main reason for his ridiculous short comings this season, and even more so the need for the team to be even worse than last year simply to hold on to the chance at keeping a top 3 pick. The fact of the matter is, nothing really proved otherwise regardless of the circumstances. For instance the times that Kobe sat out entire games or the end of games the ball still remained stagnant and produced iso’s. The last game in Houston was a great example to this. Marcelo Huertas had been known as a pass first individual all year, yet in that game he had a ton of iso plays waiting for people to move. The clock would proceed to run out with him attempting an errant shot. It seemed the entire year I was yelling at my TV, or phone when I was working, “move move move” though byron’s offensive sets seemed to produce no movement at all.
The problem with a coach like Byron is he does not adapt to his players or personnel. He will force players to adapt to him. This is not good for any rookie coming into the league nor is this a good pitch to a free agent. The “my way or the highway” attitude doesn’t fly in today’s NBA anymore and the lack of adaptation on the fly during games is an even bigger indictment on him and his coaching style. Set rotations in the modern NBA is not coaching its game planning then holding steadfast while the ship sinks around you.
Was Byron charged with leading the Lakers through the final days of Kobe, SURE, but Byron promised the Laker fans that this season would be about both “Kobe and the Kids” as LA radio touted this season. That unfortunately was a lie and it became about Kobe and only Kobe. Benching Randle and Russel half way through the season was the straw that broke the Camel’s back for many Laker fans though seeds of the Kobe only show had already been sowed prior to that mistake.
Bold Strategy Cotton…….
All this said the Lakers continued to “officially” employee statistically the worst coach, with 1000+ games with a .412 percentage, in the history of the NBA. There are still plenty of Byron fans or “stans” that try to defend him via the 2 finals appearances, and former Lakers status, however it must be stated that Byron is not, nor will he ever be a good coach in this league, and make no mistake this will be his last time coaching an NBA team. Was Byron a great player, absolutly. He was one of the linchpins for the underrated defense the showtime Lakers ran in the 80’s. Should this be an indictment on his stature as a Laker? NO not at all.
Meanwhile the Lakers dragged there feet for a few weeks post the final game on April 13th. Great coaches like Tom Thibodeau or Scott Brooks came off the bored despite multiple reports that they were interested in the “potential” Lakers opening were swooped up by other teams, though in the case of Thibodeau getting team control was something the Lakers were not going to provide. Fans grew worrisome (some psychotic) about the general lack of any information as to the status of byrons tender with the team.
In the end Byron was finally let go much to the joy of most of Laker’s Twitter on April 24, 2016. The infamous “WOJ BOMB” from Wojnarowski himself, followed by multiple confirmations from the standard Laker’s media group. I will say that @hmfaigen should be credited with the post he made regarding Byron arriving at the practice facility which was certainly an ominous sign that something was going to drop shortly after that. It took longer than most want and anticipated it still happened and the entire Laker family can now rejoice.
The Shamed Apologizes
In closing I will say that I will be the first to admit that I was all for the hiring of Byron Scott 2 years ago, and I feel that I have made up for my naivety with countless posts on twitter of my shameful support of Byron prior to this season. I have taken my walk of shame through the streets of twitter and come out the end of it cleansed of my naivety. To all of Laker land Please accept my humble apology.