Byron Scott has a reputation for coaching talented point guards, from Jason Kidd, Kryie Irving, Chris Paul, and currently D’Angelo Russell. Under Scott’s coaching, Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving were each able to win the Rookie of the Year award. Many people believed that the Lakers’ prized rookie Russell was in good hands with Scott. But it is painfully clear during this point in the season that Scott has been hurting Russell’s confidence rather than helping him flourish like the players mentioned above.
D’Angelo Russell was benched in the late minutes of the fourth quarter against the Dallas Mavericks. Scott’s reasoning for sitting Russell was this:
“I love the fact that he has confidence. When it gets to the point where it’s cockiness then we’ve got a problem”.
But a month earlier, Scott criticized Russell’s lack of aggression and assertiveness:
“At times, he does know. Then at other times in the game, I think he has no clue,” Scott said. “He’ll call a play for a high pick-and-roll and we’ll call it off. I’ll say, ‘No. Let’s do something that involves two or three passes.”
Is it fair to say that Scott’s unfair criticism and lack of positive reinforcement part of his plan to help Russell succeed? Is this all hidden in his “tough love” approach? To answer this question, we must see how he treated his past rookie point guards.
We start back on December 27th, 2011, when rookie Kyrie Irving is inserted late in the game over veteran point guard Ramon Sessions. Irving struggled most of the game, making only one basket in eight attempts. Irving ended up producing 1-of-4 shots in the fourth quarter. He finished the game shooting 2-for-12. The Cavaliers lost the game. Scott’s justification for playing his rookie point guard down the stretch was this:
“I can sit here and put two minutes on the clock (at practice) and say we’re down four,” Scott said. It still doesn’t simulate what you are going to go through when the game is on the line and you’ve got 17,000 people in the stands as well. As many times as he can be put in that situation the better off he will be.”
He also preached the importance of playing his young point guard in the fourth quarter:
“It’s a developmental thing right now,” Scott said. “I’ve got to get this young man (Irving) used to closing out games and I have to find out what he has, what he’s made of when the games are on the line in situations like that.”
In that short lockout season, Irving started every single game and averaged over 30 minutes per game.
Other than being Kobe Bryant’s ultimate supporter, it is also known that Scott had a great relationship with Chris Paul. In his rookie year, Paul averaged an astounding 36 minutes a game, starting every game he played.
The Lakers believe that Russell will be a superstar in the future, and most importantly, Russell believes in himself. But Bryon Scott’s treatment on Russell so far this season, from demoting him to the bench, to yanking him out in the fourth quarter, may diminish Russell’s confidence in the long run. There is no reason why Russell isn’t starting. There is no reason why Russell is playing less than 30 minutes a night. There is no reason why Bryon Scott can’t show the same trust in Russell that he did in Irving and Paul.
All Russell needs is confidence and support from Scott. It’s not impossible. We know because Scott has done it before.