The Los Angeles Lakers’ future is brighter than ever, but it had to reach its darkest point before the sun could rise again. That bottom-of-the-barrel moment came under former head coach Byron Scott, who helmed the Lakers for back-to-back franchise lows. LA has luckily cashed out on the fallout, ending up with four lottery picks in the last four years.
One of those lottery picks, D’Angelo Russell, still hasn’t quite found his way out of Scott’s glare. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News hosted Scott on the We Want Tacos podcast and the Lakers’ former head coach had quite a bit to say about the franchise, the young core and more.
Scott’s management of Russell’s minutes and role was one of the biggest points of criticism from fans and analysts who watched the Lakers closely, but Byron maintains that he has no regrets in how he handled both Russell and Julius Randle as the Lakers went 17-65 through the 2015-16 season.
Here’s just part of what he had to say about Russell and his handling of the young core, via Medina:
“Given that opportunity again,” Scott said, “I wouldn’t change anything, especially my approach.”
In other words, Scott does not want a mulligan for yanking starting spots away from lottery picks D’Angelo Russell and forward Julius Randle only 20 games into the 2015-16 season. The duo later reclaimed their positions shortly after the NBA All-Star break.
“I would do the same thing. I still felt like the job was given to them,” Scott said. “I don’t have a problem with young guys growing, understanding and developing in that (starting) role, but I do have a problem when they don’t cherish it, when they don’t hold it to a higher standard, when they don’t come ready to work.”
He wasn’t done there, though. Scott took a direct shot at Russell’s work ethic, a critique that’s been floated about Russell from Byron and others from time-to-time:
“I don’t know if his work ethic has gotten any better. Some of the people I’ve talked to in the organization said that it hasn’t,” Scott said of Russell. “I just wish him all the best. The maturity level will catch up to him sooner or later when he realizes it’s an honor and a privilege to be in the NBA and be in the position that he’s in. He has to take full advantage of it.”
As far removed from the situation as Scott is, he still seems to keep himself involved in current events with the Lakers. It’s not all that surprising, but it is interesting that he offered up that information about D’Angelo a year removed from being removed as head coach. One of Byron’s issues with Russell’s habits, he explains to Medina, is that he would arrive to the Lakers’ practice facility “minutes before practice started.”
Scott throwing Russell under the bus, even when he has nothing to do with the team a year removed from being removed, certainly doesn’t do anything constructive for the Lakers. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have made it clear that health and fitness are some of the biggest areas they want to set a very high bar, so there’s reason to believe even if those work ethic issues exist, the front office is going to be all over it.
The more things change for the Lakers, the more things stay the same. Back to your foxholes.