Fade in to a dark gym. A silhouette stands about 24 feet away from a basket. From the distance one can hear the sound of the silhouette dribbling and shooting. Bounce-bounce-swish. Bounce-bounce-swish. Bounce-bounce-swish. Suddenly, the silhouette stops as he hears footsteps approaching.
Under the sole turned on light stands a man. He is bald and cleanly shaved. His arms are crossed.
Byron Scott: Do you know who I am?
D’Angelo Russell: Yes.
Scott: Do you know what I’m looking for?
Scott: [Raised Voice] Then why the hell did you stop shooting?
Russell stutters then goes back to shooting. Bounce-bounce-swish. Bounce-bounce-swish. Bounce-bounce-clank.
Scott grabs the ball off the rebound and holds it.
Scott: Did I tell you to start shooting again?
Russell: No, I-
Scott: I asked you why you stopped shooting and your idea of an answer was to miss a shot.
Scott bounces the ball back to Russell.
Scott: Give me a one-dribble pull-up.
Scott: Give me a spot-up three.
Scott: Give me UCLA’s.
Russell starts sprinting up and down the floor of the gym, dribbling the ball as he goes. After a short while he looks toward the sideline to check on the coach. The coach is nowhere to be found. Russell stops and takes a knee, breathing heavily.
Fade in to pre-draft team workouts. Russell and the other prospects are doing drills with assistant coach Mark Madsen. Scott walks in to run workouts. After a short session in directing the players, Scott turns to walk out. Before he does, however, he turns around.
Scott: Hey, rook.
Jahlil Okafor stands up and starts to walk toward the coach.
Scott: Not you. The other rook.
Okafor turns around dejected. Russell lets out a slight smile and walks over to Scott.
Scott: June 25, 2015. Barclays Center. Don’t be late.
Fade into a Lakers scrimmage during training camp. Jordan Clarkson has been running the point for the first team, but it’s time for the rookie to show what he has to offer.
On his first possession, Russell grabs the defensive rebound and sprints down the floor, beating all of his teammates to the front-court.
Scott: You’re going a little too fast there.
On the next possession, Russell again runs out after a missed shot, launching a three before the defense has set.
Scott: That’s not quite my tempo.
Next time, Russell gets the outlet pass but walks the ball up the floor calmly.
Scott: Now you’re dragging just a bit.
Russell picks the pace up again.
Scott: NOT MY TEMPO.
Cut to a two-man competition, after practice a few weeks into the season. Larry Nance, Jr. and Julius Randle competing in the gym for the right to start. No, it is not a scrimmage, instead it is a contest to measure effort and energy.
Scott: Nance, you first.
Nance sprints to one side of the gym and back.
Scott: Are you kidding me?! Randle, your turn.
Randle does the same.
Scott: That’s pathetic. Nance!
Nance repeats the route.
Scott: More energy! More effort!
Nance keeps running back and forth, sprinting as fast as he can.
Scott: Faster! More energy!
Nance finally collapses to the floor, sweat dripping off him and onto the ground. His breathing is slow and heavy.
Scott: Larry…you earned the starting spot.
Scott walks out as the two power forwards gasp for air.
Cut to practice a few days later. The players are warming up as Scott walks in, seemingly upset. He gathers the team around him.
Scott: We’re going to cut practice short. I’ve just received some terrible news. A former player of mine, one who did a lot for us last season has passed away. His name was Tarik Black. And he was one of the hardest playing guys I’ve ever seen. [Scott begins to sob]
Later that week, D’Angelo Russell is in an agent’s office. He has been summoned to discuss Tarik Black.
Agent: Contrary to what you may have heard, Tarik is not dead. It was a lie to cover up what really happened to him.
Russell: Why am I here? What do you want from me?
Agent: Don’t you see? Tarik didn’t die, he disappeared. He disappeared because of Scott’s rotations and disparagements. We’re just trying to make sure he can’t do that to anyone else.
Russell: Just tell me what to say.
Months later, Scott has been fired. Russell, walking around Hollywood, sees his former coach with a group of young kids, trying to teach them the game of basketball. Before Russell can walk away, Scott sees him and requests that they have a conversation.
Scott: I don’t know if you’ve heard, I’m not with the Lakers anymore.
Russell: Yeah, I uhh did hear that. [Pause] Did you quit?
Scott: Not exactly. Some agents got some players from Tarik Black’s year, I think, to say some things about me. Although why anybody would have anything to say other than peaches and cream about me is a mystery.
Scott: That’s a good laugh right? Look I get it. I know I made [pause] enemies. Truth is I don’t think people understood what it was I was doing in LA. I wasn’t there to coach. Any moron can draw plays and keep players in shape. I was there to push people beyond what was expected of them. I believe that is an absolute necessity. Otherwise, we’re depriving the world of the next Kobe Bryant, the next Michael Jordan. I told you that story about how Kobe Bryant became Kobe Bryant, right?
Russell: He shot four airballs in a playoff game.
Scott: Exactly. Kobe’s a young kid, pretty good at basketball. Goes to win a close game and he messes up. And he’s laughed off the court, cries himself to sleep that night. But the next morning, what does he do? He practices. And he practices. And he practices with one goal in mind: never to be laughed at again. And a few years later, he goes back to the playoffs, and he goes on the best run anyone has ever seen.
So imagine if Phil Jackson had said, “That’s OK, Kobe. Good job.” And Kobe says to himself, “Well I did do a pretty good job.” End of story. No bird. That to me is an absolute tragedy. But that’s just what the world wants now. People wonder why basketball is soft. I tell you, man. And every NBA “champion” just proves my point, really. There are no two words in the English language more harmful than “Good job.”
Russell: But is there a line? You know maybe you go too far and discourage the next Kobe Bryant from ever becoming Kobe Bryant?
Scott: No man, no. Because the next Kobe Bryant would never be discouraged.