It usually seems like a foregone conclusion the Lakers make changes anytime their season does not end in a championship parade. Therefore, it seems inevitable a shakeup will happen after the Lakers finished the 2015-16 campaign with a franchise-worst 17-65 record.
Yet, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak argued that coach Byron Scott “has done an excellent job under the circumstances that he’s had to deal with the last two years.” As Scott finished with a combined 38-126 through two years, the Lakers became mindful of a few things.
After playing only 35 games in the 2014-15 season because of season-ending right shoulder surgery, Kobe Bryant’s presence in his 20th and final season brought challenges with both his health and the hoopla surround his farewell tour. The Lakers also fielded a roster this season filled with talented albeit inexperienced players in D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown.
Scott and Kupchak spent most of Thursday completing exit meetings with players on Thursday. Kupchak shared he also spoke with Scott on Friday for about 45 minutes. But Kupchak did not articulate Scott’s job status other than saying he’s “under contract” entering the third season of a four-year deal worth $17 million. Kupchak added he plans to meet with Scott and Lakers vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss in “an informal lunch at some point in the next week or two.”
“Anything is possible,” Kupchak said. “All I anticipate is some informal meetings and moving on from there.”
Scott previously expressed optimism he would coach in the 2016-17 season and that he did not sense any need to feel concerned about his job status. Scott also believed “we’re all still on the same page.”
“I know he’s hoping that he coaches here forever, but a lot of times what we do is we’re really preparing for the next GM or the next coach. That’s tough sometimes,” Kupchak said. “It does take time to develop young players. We’ll know in two or three years how effective Byron was as a parent to the young guys on this team.”
Though Kupchak said it “remains to be seen” how the Lakers’ young players responded to Scott’s direct and critical coaching style, the Lakers’ general manager observed Scott had “total and complete respect.”
“Byron runs a tight ship,” Kupchak said. “Byron makes sure players are where they need to be. They’re ready to practice. Practices are organized. You better be rested if you practice for the Lakers. You better be ready to work if you’re going to practice for the Lakers.”
Kupchak also argued Byron became ready to embrace the modern NBA, including analytics. During the 2014-15 season, Scott often dismissed the use of analytics in today’s game, while touting about the need to evaluate and use talent based off of player experience, making on-court observations and handling personalities.
Since then, the Lakers promoted assistant Clay Moser to become the director of basketball strategy. The Lakers also made public their analytics staff, including Yuju Lee, Aaron Danielson, Rudy Tomjanovich and Trey Tomjanovich.
“Every day there would be data, charts and graphs and information passed on from our department to our coaching staff,” Scott said. “I don’t think Byron was susceptible or likely to listen to that his first year. I think he’s been versatile to it this year, open to changes and looking at things differently.”