The Los Angeles Lakers did what they should have done at least a week ago and fired head coach Byron Scott. Honestly, that's about as vanilla a first sentence as I could write, but I just wanted to say I wrote it at some point in my life.
Oddly enough, the response from many in the media has been to paint Scott's time in Los Angeles as an almost charitable no-win situation he was fortunate to last so long in. Thing is: That's not the case. Not remotely so.
First, the tendency is to knock the rosters Scott was given and say not even Phil Popovich or Greg Jackson could have won with those teams. Well, yeah. Good talk. It's literally the easiest (and frankly, laziest) bit of analysis you could do, but let's roll with that.
Here are the rosters from Byron Scott's tenure:
|Vander Blue||Tarik Black|
|Carlos Boozer||Anthony Brown|
|Jabari Brown||Kobe Bryant|
|Kobe Bryant||Jordan Clarkson|
|Dwight Buycks||Roy Hibber|
|Jordan Clarkson||Marcelo Huertas|
|Ed Davis||Ryan Kelly|
|Wayne Ellington||Larry Nance, Jr.|
|Xavier Henry||Julius Randle|
|Jordan Hill||D'Angelo Russell|
|Wesley Johnson||Robert Sacre|
|Ryan Kelly||Lou Williams|
|Jeremy Lin||Metta World Peace|
|Ronnie Price||Nick Young|
The immediate takeaway is that both of those teams are almost laughably bad. No, I take that back, I chuckled at a few of those names. Those rosters are laughably bad. This is no revelation.But if the hope in keeping him was that he'd improve as the roster around him does, we already have evidence to the contrary.
The Lakers' roster improved from Scott's first year in Los Angeles to his second, yet the results went in the opposite direction. Does the blame fall solely on Byron for that drop? Of course not. It does, however, mean we can't use roster quality as an excuse for his ineptitude. Analyzing the team as such is too shallow.
The counter is that it's just too easy to use that excuse for Scott: Of course those teams were bad. Even with those teams being terrible and most everyone watching, Byron still managed to coach poorly enough to warrant his firing.
Which brings me to my second point...
How many times since Sunday night (when Scott was Jazzy Jeff'ed by the Lakers) have you heard to phrase: "No-win situation"? Do you really understand how that situation works?
Byron Scott stepped in as the popular former champion, following in the footsteps of one of the least popular head coaches in Lakers history (say what you will about what Mike D'Antoni brought to the table, he wasn't popular by the time he resigned), with glowing references from former teammates and the current superstar and -- and this is the most important part -- he had no expectations. Zero. None.
Now, the immediate response I'm sure I'll get will sound something like: "A Lakers coach facing no expectations? You're crazy."
But really, what did anyone smart expect out of this season? Plenty of Kobe farewell moments, let the kids grow, scratch together 25-30 wins and see what happens. There was some playoff talk before the season, but when the team said so, anyone with an IQ over "present" pretty quickly assumed it was them saying so because they had to, especially in Kobe's final season.
Put another way: You can't hold up poor rosters as a reason for Byron's failure, but then also claim the situation was no-win due to any kind of expectations. Those two excuses are mutually exclusive.
If you're going to say stuff like "no coach in NBA could have won with those rosters", you also have to understand Byron wasn't necessarily expected to. Really, had he more smoothly bridged the gap between Kobe and the kids, both on the court and in the press, the noise surrounding this past week of not knowing what the Lakers might do with Scott would not have been so deafening.
Lastly, and this has been my favorite of the excuses: Kobe. The thinking here is that no coach could have succeeded, given the farewell tour and the need to develop the kids simultaneously. Unlike the two points made above, however, these two priorities are nowhere near mutually exclusive. If anything, properly utilizing Kobe in a system that also highlighted the talents of the young core benefitted everyone. Yet Byron showed no such creativity.
If anything, expecting Kobe to lift this roster singlehandedly and devising a system hoping he could do so, speaks to the disconnect that existed throughout Scott's tenure between his pipe dreams and reality. Did having to play Bryant for extended stretches while he clanked shot after shot hurt the Lakers' chances of winning? Of course, but what about the farewell tour said that absolutely needed to take place?
The top priority in such a farewell tour is that the player for whom the tour is being held makes it through the year healthy, not that he needed to play 30-plus minutes per game or get up some asinine number of shot attempts. One could even argue that a farewell tour featuring the kids more often, in the hopes of passing the torch publicly to a certain extent from Kobe to that young trio, would have been better-received nationally. Instead, Byron took any and every opportunity to dump on the kids publicly, future distancing them from the all-timer they're tasked with following.
The Lakers made the right call in firing Byron. It was probably pretty easy to do so, all things considered. What would have been much tougher to explain would have been keeping him around. So, instead of trying to paint a picture in which Byron was some victim tasked with the impossible, why not see this for what it was: An unmitigated disaster in which not even the lowest expectations any Lakers coach has ever dealt with were not met.