Byron Scott is in a paradox of sorts, trying to balance the line as he coaches Kobe Bryant in his final season as well as a slew of young Los Angeles Lakers talent who will play a pivotal part in the franchise’s future.
The head coach has maintained his old-school reputation as a more aggressive coach toward younger players as losses continue to mount, but he doesn’t buy into the notion he’s employing “tough love,” per Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com:
Byron Scott on his approach with young players: "You [media] call it 'tough love.’ I call it just being disciplined."— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) February 18, 2016
Scott called out Julius Randle’s immaturity last month, saying the second-year forward has “got to grow up,” per Holmes, and once pegged rookie D’Angelo Russell’s playing style as “young and dumb,” per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.
The second-year head coach benched both in December in what was a highly questionable move at the time after the team’s 3-17 start, yet Scott has held the support of general manager Mitch Kupchak throughout.
"Every coach chooses to bring along young players differently," Kupchak said, per Bresnahan. "Some coaches will not play rookies at all. Some will give them more leeway than others. They're young players and they're playing big minutes."
The Lakers, with the West’s worst record at 11-44, made no trades before Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline and will ride out the rest of the 2015-16 rut with their current corps.
But Scott plans to utilize the opportunity to give younger players such as Jordan Clarkson and Russell more time to continue their development as they prepare to become the team leaders once Bryant is gone.
“There’s gonna be some young guys that I’m probably gonna up their playing time a little bit more,” Scott said Wednesday, per Joey Ramirez of the Lakers' website on NBA.com, referring to Clarkson and Russell among others. “Just to see what we can get from them and take a closer look at them as well.”
Two weeks ago, Scott praised both Randle and Russell for their progression throughout what's been a trying year, per Lakers Nation:
The Lakers last season finished a franchise-worst 21-61 in what was an embarrassing low point for the illustrious team that has won 16 NBA championships. They’ll need to double their win count over their final 27 games to avoid tying the low mark again in Bryant’s final season, which at this point seems highly ambitious.
By continuing to revert more playing time to the younger core, Scott and the Lakers can build toward the future—but it may come at the cost of another ugly finish to this season.