Heading into this season, fans who paid close attention to the Los Angeles Lakers knew there was a chance Byron Scott might take a ginormous dump on the '15-16 campaign. What we didn't take into account was how that might affect the Lakers moving forward.
We've reached such a tipping point that I'm left to wonder whether Byron might actually be leaving a lasting imprint on the Lakers organization given how poorly he's managed the youth this year. Such a "legacy" should terrify the Lakers into firing the maligned and malignant head coach, but they won't, because the entire organization has turned into a laughingstock.
In terms of immediate impact, the Lakers can't possibly feel like they have a proper gauge of D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, or Julius Randle's value. Now, this isn't that out of the ordinary for rookies and sophomore players. A single year or even a year-and-a-half is nowhere near enough time to properly understand what a team might have with the vast majority of prospects. There are exceptions on either side of the rule (think uber prospects like LeBron James or busts like Anthony Bennett), but for the most part, teams can't feel all that comfortable trading for or away youth in those first couple seasons.
All that said, the Lakers are in a somewhat unique situation given how poor a job the coach they hired to manage their young talent has done.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The inconsistent roles and minutes both Randle and Russell have to adjust to make it almost impossible to gain any footing as they try to develop as NBA players. Even Clarkson, who's played under the closest thing to ideal situations for a young player, has needed to adapt because of how Scott has yanked the rotations. Any point guard will tell you they need consistent minutes with teammates to understand timing and spots players prefer to get the ball. That simply hasn't been the case for any of the Lakers' lead guards this year.
So, however indirectly, Byron is holding the Lakers hostage as they can't even consider making moves necessary to either hasten or continue the rebuilding efforts. So long as he mismanages the foundation, there's simply no way to build upward. If the Lakers aren't interested in making a trade (and they really shouldn't be at the moment), the obvious next step is to develop each prospect as best they can. This is literally the most important aspect of Byron's job description and also the manner in which he is most drastically failing the franchise he once won titles for.
Scott's systemic issues on both sides of the ball have been extremely well-documented. There's no need for me to get into that kind of thing, but just understand, in case you've been watching Lakers games from underneath a rock, the Lakers are not doing anyone any favors with what they try to run offensively or how they try to defend anyone. What I'm much more interested in is how he tries to run said systems on a day-to-day basis.
When you hear Byron talk about any of the Lakers' young players, the criticism tends to be completely intangible. Really, it's a stroke of genius for a coach who should be doing whatever he can to draw attention away from his own shortcomings as a leader.
Now, if Byron got into specifics with the media on what he's hoping to see from his players, the message would probably go over the vast majority of fans' heads. On top of that, doing so would risk giving too much away as the team tries to compete against the rest of the NBA. So, from that standpoint, it's somewhat understandable he isn't offering diatribes after games and practices.
Look at Russell's most recent response:
D'Angelo on Byron saying he was trying to take over game: "I don't know if he would have said that if I was making those shots."
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) January 27, 2016
Does that sound like someone all that interested in learning from a dude whose only NBA coaching talent might be usage of coaching cliches? Yeah, I didn't think so, either.
What we can hope for, however, is that he'd offer some tangible detail to the youth he's trying to help develop. We're left to wonder as we read between the lines of quotes after games, but given Russell's reactions to reporters relaying messages from his head coach, I can't help but feel like the expectations are either ambiguous or impossible to meet. Add to that the presence of double-standards between youth and veterans and we're looking at quite possibly the worst situation for prospects to develop in the NBA -- and that includes Philadelphia.
We've all been there, too. Feeling like no matter what you do, it will never be enough, is one of the most frustrating funks one can be stuck in. It takes immense willpower to not let that feeling give way to apathy. Yes, it's up to the individual to learn from any given situation, regardless of frustrations, but shouldn't the Lakers be doing whatever they can to make growth as easy as possible?
Why am I even asking that question? OF COURSE they should be. It's what any not-embarrassingly-inept organization would be doi-... Never mind.
Look, I hate hot takes as much as the next sports fan. The way we define players as greats or busts is absolutely maddening, so I was fairly concerned as I wrote this that it might come across as extreme. That said, we're talking about the formative years of the most important Lakers we'll see for the foreseeable future.
Developing Russell, Randle and Clarkson isn't anything like hoping a role player grows while surrounded by a core. Typically veterans offer a safety net in case development occurs more slowly than a team would prefer. When those veterans are Brandon Bass, Roy Hibbert or Lou Williams -- all guys who could be gone tomorrow -- that safety net basically disappears. If no one from the young core develops, the franchise would be set back years, and one would think/hope multiple people within the organization would lose their jobs.
This is what's at stake as the coaching staff's ineptitude in managing a game is only matched by its ability to develop youth. The longer Byron Scott sticks around, the more the Lakers risk allowing apathy to develop as a habit for all the building blocks of their future. The deafening discord at this stage in their careers is potentially devastating, and even the possibility of this occurring should be enough to fire the man largely responsible for this farce of a season.