Though the Los Angeles Lakers are back to being a premier basketball team, they were a complete disaster not that long ago. The team missed the playoffs for six straight years as the franchise was ripe with drama and bad decision-making. One of the worst periods was overseen by team legend Byron Scott.
He took over coaching duties for the team in 2014 and led the Lakers to a total of 38 wins in two seasons before getting fired. It wasn’t a great stint and he had issues with his young players, specifically D’Angelo Russell. Assistant coach Jim Eyen dished on Scott’s relationship with Russell to Jake Fischer in his new book: “Built To Lose: How the NBA’s Tanking Era Changed the League Forever”:
Scott would tell Russell when he thought the rookie was freelancing instead of settling the table for teammates. He’d offer varying reasons as to why he benched Russell during crunch time situations. “I think Byron coached D’Angelo from the heart. He did what he thought the best thing for D’Angelo was. It would have been easier had he just taken the path of least resistance,” Eyen says. “But he didn’t. It’s a lot more difficult to try to do it, what you feel is the right way, and discipline when you need to disciple. Pat him on the butt me give him accolades when he deserves it and just do what you need to do for not only the team, but for the long term of the player.
Fischer was also able to speak with Russell who bluntly ripped the coach:
Russell, frankly, disagrees. Scott didn’t handle sophomore forward Julius Randle with the same kids gloves. “He’s an idiot,” Russell says of his coach.
Russell felt Scott often yanked him from close contests purely to spark controversy and attention for his postgame media availability. “I just think he was malicious for no reason,” Russell says. “He’s a solid man. But as a coach, he was bad. He was just bad at his job.”
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The Game Appeared to Pass Scott By
Early in his career as a coach, Scott showed a lot of promise. He led the Nets to the NBA Finals in two of his first seasons as a head coach, losing both series. Since his last Finals appearance, his teams only made the playoffs twice in 10 seasons. While Scott had success early on, that may have had more to do with the talent he was working with than his ability as a coach.
It’s certainly too far for Russell to call him an idiot. Scott won three championships as a player and certainly knows a lot about basketball. He just faltered as a coach.
Russell Used to Avoid Scott at All Cost
Prior to LeBron James joining the Lakers, it was a dark time for the proud franchise. Russell was the chief cause of a number of issues during his time there. He also revealed to Fischer how he would try to avoid Scott:
When Scott summoned Russell back to the bench, Russell would take his most circuitous path in order to duck high-fiving the coaching staff. “I was just young. I used to do all types of s*** to avoid talking to him,” Russell says. The guard bristled in his seat at the end of Los Angeles’ pine. Lakers officials diagnosed the dynamic evidence of Russell’s immaturity issues scouts across the league has flagged before the draft.
A player going out of his way to avoid his head coach is never a recipe for success. It’s no surprise that things didn’t work out.