Curious the second most successful team in the history of the NBA-Los Angeles Lakers’- sacking of head coach Byron Scott failed to flick a dime off a thumb. Followers of the best basketball league in the world woke up to news of Scott’s dismissal from the Lakers bench, mulled over it for a few minutes and went on like nothing ever happened. In truth, nothing is supposed to happen; not when Kobe Bryant’s 20 year stay in the league came to an end less than a month ago.
Not when the Portland Trailblazers and Lakers nemesis, the Boston Celtics have equaled their respective series and especially not when the team won only 38 games out of a possible 126 games in two seasons. Angelinos and Lakers fans alike never had the former Shooting Guard who helped the team to three championship titles during the Magic Johnson era in their good books. The numbers tell a lot about Scott’s stay on the sideline which has been pegged in a bracket that ranged between appalling, humiliating and disastrous to abysmal.The numbers also back management’s decision to foot the remainder of his four year $70 million dollar contract he signed before the 2013-2014 season.
He will be compensated with a cool $ 8.5 million dollars. Though many people are in tandem with management regarding Byron’s sack, things are not always what they seems to be when certain vital factors are considered. The Lakers have been awfully thin on quality players for a while. The team which has forever been in the mix with star names like the NBA’s first super star George Mikan, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and the recently retired Kobe, cannot get it right this time around.
Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James whiffed at penning their signatures to the Purple and Gold, Dwight Howard bolted after playing just for a year to Houston Rockets despite Rockets offering him $22 million dollars less than the Lakers in guaranteed money. The 2015 offseason showed how far the team is from being the top player destination it was following Greg Monroe and LaMarcus Aldridge’s decision to sign for small market teams Milwaukee Bucks and San Antonio Spurs respectively. As the Lakers struggled to assemble a roster capable of competing in the much competitive conference, Scott had to make due with inferior talents on many nights when the team came up against majority of teams in the league.
A more featured starting lineup this past regular season had Kobe Bryant play as a Small Forward with Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell manning the backcourt as Julius Randle and Roy Hibbert manned the frontcourt. In times when Scott moved Russell and Randle to the bench, 2005 draftees Brandon Bass and Lou Williams took their place in the lineup. Hibbert is a throwback Center with little range to adjust to the modern NBA which prioritizes speed and space more. Not every big can space the floor like Karl-Anthony Towns or Kelly Olynyk or Frank Kaminsky or good old Dirk Nowitzki but paint prowlers like Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan make themselves worthy of All NBA team selection by blocking shots and rebounding balls.
Hibbert doesn’t make the cut in these areas or any other areas as it is. Bryant was a shell of himself as he has being through the last three years of his career. Clarkson, Russell and Randle are the future of the franchise but are by no means a Damian Lillard or a LeBron James; first year players who made instant contributions. Aside the obvious drop off in talent, Scott was dealt a strong hand by management after he did his job. Nobody believed the Lakers stood a chance to make the playoffs in any of Scotts’ years on the bench. His primary duty was to build the Laker foundation from scratch and complete it by way of signing star players in free agency. Getting Russell and Randle playing to their potential, job done. The duo after murky starts to their NBA careers, improved when Scott moved them to the bench to the dismay of fans.
Clarkson has flourished into a Most Improved Player of the Year candidate who made the NBA Rookie First Team despite being drafted 43rd in the 2014 draft. With steady sometimes unconventional way of developing the trio, Scott has put the Lakers in a perfect position to fast track their rebuild. The RRC (Russell-Randle-Clarkson) combo is on the precipice of being a perfect backup option to say, a Kevin Durant.
Plus, the losses accrued under Scott will end up serving the Lakers well as it gives the team a good chance of staying in the top three positions in the draft. The relevance of this is that it endure the team adds another potential game changer to the roster like Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram from the draft and preventing the pick from landing at Philadelphia Sixers as part of the Steve Nash trade in 2012.
To be continued when the Lakers find a great development coach like the now-employed Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks.