At some point in one’s life, it becomes apparent that the goal of all hard work is not necessarily perfection, but rather to improve until something very close to it is achieved. It’s not necessarily the destination that matters, but rather the journey. The old adage of “one day at a time” becomes less of a cliché and more of a motto. Every day starts with the goal of using it to get better and every night ends with the hope that the next day is even more productive.
The same is true in basketball. Except, the Los Angeles Lakers may not understand that, yet. While the ultimate goal for this young team should be improvement – from the basics to the very small details – it seems that they are stuck in a sort of purgatory, with each game bringing the same issues and the same lack of accountability in addressing them.
At the center of this seemingly never-ending cycle is the head coach of the team. Since signing on as the leader of the Lakers’ rebuild, Byron Scott has continuously went through the same process. After every loss, the comments are the same – a broken record of clichés.
Soft. Man up. Something about foxholes.
The same words and phrases are thrown around like Halloween candy about almost every player on the roster. Yet, for every player thrown under the bus, there is no mention by the coach about what he could do better. Sure, the players could execute better, play stronger defense, adapt to the game quicker than most rookies and second year players do. But at what point should a portion of the blame be placed on the head coach?
After Friday night’s bitter loss to the Sacramento Kings, Scott had this to say:
Byron: “Sooner or later you’ve got to man up, it doesn’t come down sometimes to X & Os, you’ve got guys going at you, you’ve got to man up.”
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) October 31, 2015
Sometimes, Scott mistakes basketball for boxing, thinking the winning formula is always more toughness than the other guy, gritting your way to wins despite the clear disadvantage of having a coach who evidently does not put much emphasis on the strategy behind the game. Let’s talk about those X’s and O’s despite Scott’s request that we do not.
In two games, the Lakers continue to run out a lineup featuring the defensively deficient duo of Ryan Kelly and Brandon Bass. That combination has played 33 minutes in two games (after a preseason where it was experimented with quite a bit, mind you) and posted a -11.3 net rating. Whatever offense Scott thinks they can generate – and at least in Bass’s case, it is not much – is immediately given back, and then some, by their lack of defensive ability. Scott may have gained inspiration in watching Draymond Green seamlessly play center against the Cavaliers in the finals. But let’s be real, Bass and Kelly are not Green, and DeMarcus Cousins is not Timofey Mozgov. Meanwhile, Tarik Black, last year’s less heralded rookie find, has played under seven minutes. Let that settle in just a bit.
In two games, the Lakers first team offense has divulged into a mess of pathetic set plays that yield no results, yet continue to occur without second thought. Scott’s unabashed attempts to play to his players’ weaknesses is honestly impressive.
Roy Hibbert shot 49.6% from the post last season? Well why not post him up more?
Kobe Bryant is 37 years old and on his last legs? Let’s run isolations for him 29.3% of the time he is on the court. Oh by the way, Kobe is a mighty 2 for 11 in isolation.
We have a problem with ball movement? Let’s put the ball in our worst playmaker’s hands 20 feet away from the rim and hope something happens. At this point, it’s not even about basketball. It’s simple math.
Here is the real kick to the groin, though. The basketball strategy leading to losses is not even a big problem. No matter what scheme this team runs, they are nowhere near sniffing the playoffs. They are too young and still lack the talent to compete with the big boys. That is what makes it especially frustrating when the future of the franchise sits on the bench, looking on as the team loses games without him. There is literally nothing to lose by having Russell on the floor, as everything is usually lost without him anyway. So when the second overall pick only plays 23 minutes and his only four minutes in the fourth quarter come in the depth of garbage time along with his end-of-the-rotation teammates, questions must be asked. And when Russell’s minutes come in moments when he cannot succeed (i.e. not allowing him to run pick and rolls over and over again) then questions do not begin to describe the things that come out of my mouth.
All of this may seem like an easy targeting of Byron Scott after a bad loss. That’s because it is brutally easy. I’m a twenty year old with no experience in basketball at any level. But it is painfully obvious to me, despite my lack of knowledge what problems exist within the Lakers organization. All of this talk about ownership’s ineptitude and the “brand” dying (I was at the game; the brand certainly is not dead) and the rookie being deemed a bust after four months is all utter crap. There is one glaring problem with the team and it’s in plain sight.
When players are not placed in positions to succeed, or at least in positions where they can learn to succeed, and are then thrown under the bus by their coach because they are too “soft” or are too “nice,” then problems exist beyond the makeup of the team. When the coach criticizes the team for not being “ready” to play out of the gate, problems exist beyond the team’s willingness to play hard. When the coach’s halftime rally call is to tell his players to “man up” rather than making the correct adjustments to allow them to play with more success, problems exist beyond the team’s toughness. It is increasingly obvious that no one on the team (and this includes Kobe who never does any wrong in Scott’s eyes) wants to play for this head coach. For a group of young players who are just experiencing their first taste of the NBA culture, that is a frightening thought. When the very fabric of the future of the team is being endangered by one person, changes need to be made.
Calling for a person’s job is not something I want to do. It is unfair to that person and a little unseemly. But calling for a sense of accountability is not a huge favor to ask. After all, the goal is improvement. And improvement happens one step at a time. If perfection is to be reached, the Lakers have to figure out their next step.
(All stats from NBA.com)