Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott and Julius Randle made headlines over the last few days for disagreements over Randle's play. Things started when Scott took Randle to task in front of both the team and the postgame media contingent for his poor defense at the end of the Lakers' win against the Suns on Sunday night. Randle skipped talking to reporters after the game.
The next day at practice, Scott informed the assembled media that Randle needed to "grow up." Randle acknowledged that his defense was not great, but thought it was a team issue and felt that he was singled out for. At Wedenesday's practice after the team's three-game win streak was emphatically snapped by the Golden State Warriors,Scott made an effort to clear the air with Randle publicly and privately.
"We had a nice little talk today, and it's like you said, he's young, he's frustrated with not playing the way he's capable of playing," Scott told reporters. "I still have a lot of faith in him, still believe in him, these two games aren't an indication on how I feel about him, but there are some things that I have to do as a coach, and I told him 'every now and then you're going to think I'm a you-know-what hole, and that's okay, that's my job is to teach you, and there's times when I'm going to be extremely hard on you. When we get to the point where I'm not talking to you then we got a big problem.'"
At least Scott is making an effort to clear the air, and he also took some time to praise his young forward for some of the good things he has been doing recently as well as some defensive improvement against the defending champions.
"His energy has been great, his effort has been great, he's rebounding the ball, and I want him to keep doing those things," Scott said. "Last night there were a couple of incidences where he came weak-side, got a couple blocks, so he's growing on that end of the floor... I haven't lost any faith in him at all, I just want him to continue to play hard and battle while he's out there and everything will work out."
Scott was correct that Randle did play at least a little better defense against the Warriors at times, and he did record one block on Sunday night on this defensive possession:
Randle is still ball watching a bit, but does a better job of staying close to his man, which was a major issue for him on Sunday night against Phoenix. Then, Randle demonstrates excellent closing speed on an emergency help rotation and blocks Marresse Speights' dunk attempt. A rare good defensive play for a Lakers team that gave up 109 points to the Warriors.
Scott still said he wanted Randle to "play a little bit better on [defense]," which is totally fair. Randle is not a good NBA defender yet. It is still better to hear Scott acknowledging that Randle has done some good things this year. Many fans may not always agree with the way that he goes about it, but Scott does seem to genuinely want to see success from Randle. Whether that will start to lead to more comments like this rather than criticism through the media is anyone's guess.
All quotes from Monday's practice obtained firsthand, Wednesday practice quotes transcribed via Lakers Nation.