Former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott made an appearance on “L.A. Today” on AM 570 on Wednesday to talk about the players he was let go for not coaching well enough.
Everyone who watched the team last season could see that Scott and then-rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell didn’t have the most productive relationship, and Scott was honest when asked for his opinion on the Lakers guard.
“He still has a lot of growing up to do. Still has a lot of room to improve,” Scott said (as transcribed by Lakers Outsiders). “There’s times where you see flashes of what we feel that he can be. I’m sure they [the Lakers] feel the same way, that this guy can be a great player in this league.
“But he’s got to grow up. He’s got to take the responsibility of being one of the leaders of the team, one of the better players on the team,” Scott continued. “Until he does that, he’s gonna keep having these up and downs. But I still think the kid has the potential to be a great player. Now, will he reach it? That’s really strictly up to D’Angelo. He has to put in the work. One of my biggest things with him was you can’t be a first, second or third year player and practice is at 11 and you walk on the floor at 10:50. You got to be there early, you gotta work your butt off to get to where you want to get to.”
Young players don’t normally gain maturity like that immediately, which to be fair, Scott acknowledged.
“It’s not going to happen overnight. You got to put in that effort every single day. If practice is only two hours, you have to be out there on that floor maybe three and a half hours. A lot of it is going to be is wanting to get to the point where you’re one of the best players in this league,” Scott said. “And it starts in the summer and it parlays into the regular season. And you still have to have that mindset that you want to be great in this league. It’s not given to you, and I think that’s a lot of what the young players think today.”
It’s mostly assumed Scott was let go in large part because the Lakers weren’t sure of his ability to handle a lengthier rebuild, and he confirmed what many felt his coaching philosophy was in regards to young players.
“When they walk in now they think you owe them. You know, and I always felt when you walk in brother you gotta show me, I ain’t gotta show you. I’ve been there, I’ve done this. You gotta show me,” Scott said. “And when [Russell] starts to really grow up and mature, and he’s gotta obviously stops getting hurt and plays for a longer period of time, then hopefully he can reach that potential. But right now, the jury is still out.”
For whatever it’s worth, a recent tweet from a trainer Russell has worked with disputed that notion of Russell’s work ethic:
That's what he does. Works non-stop! No matter the circumstances #Loading https://t.co/qbADgdo4eS— Robbie Haught (@RobbieHaught) January 23, 2017
Current Lakers head coach Luke Walton also recently praised Russell’s work ethic:
Telling quote from Luke Walton on improved play of D’Angelo Russell & Julius Randle & how they’ve both "stepped up their professionalism" pic.twitter.com/xEWLx7sMBN— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) January 9, 2017
With the Lakers in the midst of what appears to be another lottery bound season, Scott also shared his thoughts on tanking.
“I’m just not into trying to lose games on purpose,” said the coach with the most losses of any coach to coach more than 1,000 games. “I think it sets a bad precedent, not only for the players but the organization in general. It still doesn’t guarantee you’re going to get the first or second pick. Everything should just play out. You should just let it just play out and whatever happens, happens.”
And while some had accused the Lakers of “stealth tanking” over the past few years, Scott disagreed with that notion.
“That would be more of the owner or general manager going to the coach and saying ‘We need you to lose games.’ That’s a bad sign to me,” Scott said. “I know Mitch and Jimmy didn’t do that to me whatsoever and I don’t think they’re built that way. I’m going to put that out there. I don’t think they’re built that way. I don’t think that’s going to happen in L.A. If they lose, it’s going to be because they lost. It’s not going to be because it came from the front office or ownership that we want you guys to lose games.”
The Lakers currently sit with the second-worst record in the NBA, and are going to lose a lot of games regardless of whether they want to or not. However, it doesn’t appear as though Luke Walton is going to intentionally tank games, meaning he and the team’s last coach have at least one thing in common.
All stats per NBA.com. and Basketball-Reference.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.