The Los Angeles Lakers have lost 44 of their 55 games so far this season going in to the All-Star break, and will begin their final 27-game stretch Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs. Despite their futility over the first "half" of the season leading for most to call for the team to focus on developing their young players no matter the results, head coach Byron Scott said the organizations goals have not changed.
"I want to get [our young players] out there as much as possible and see how they're going to react to certain situations," Scott told Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News after the Lakers' Friday shootaround. "But the No. 1 task is still to win games. The No. 2 task is develop our young guys. In that order."
Scott expressed similar sentiment in early November, when he told reporters "I'm not always thinking about necessarily developing them, I'm always thinking about trying to win... The development part comes secondary to that, but in practice and everything is where you really work on the development part."
On some level, this is what Scott has to say, given that the Lakers public contention is always that they are doing their best to win games, not only for the morale boost it gives to their younger players to see their efforts pay off, but also so that their fans continue to buy tickets to see them play and watch them on T.V.
On the other hand, the Lakers' number one priority should be developing their young players at this point in the season, with nothing but lottery odds to play for. The organization's future hinges on the development of D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and to a lesser degree seeing what they have in Tarik Black, Anthony Brown, and Larry Nance, Jr. Most, if not all, fans could probably understand that at this point if the team were to admit it, so it's hard to comprehend why Scott does not do so unless he truly does value a few more wins in the final stretch of another lost year.
If Scott says this publicly while fulfilling the goal of developing the young players on the court by giving them more time to play through their mistakes, as he has stated he will, then public statements like this ultimately aren't that harmful even if they draw social media mocking. But if the coach who is battling for his job continues to bench the younger players down the stretch in favor of veterans like Lou Williams and Brandon Bass while chasing a couple of wins then the problem is a real one rather than an issue of perception. Which of these is the case is one of the major things to watch for as the Lakers close out the year.
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