Larry Nance Jr. sympathetic to challenges Byron Scott faced as Lakers coach

Byron Scott is out as coach of Lakers after two season. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/LA Daily News, File)

Byron Scott is out as coach of Lakers after two season. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/LA Daily News, File)

The criticism mounted as Byron Scott oversaw the Lakers finish with their worst record in franchise history for two consecutive years. That only increased over Scott’s stern approach toward a young roster that showed both upside and a learning curve.

All of which Lakers rookie forward Larry Nance Jr. considered “not fair.”

“He had a lot of pressure on him that didn’t really allow him to open up and coach,” Nance told the Southern California News Group about Scott. “Sometimes that’s how it goes, and the politics get the best of it. I feel for him — this was an impossible job.”

That explains why Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in his exit meeting that “Byron has done an excellent job under the circumstances that he’s had to deal with the last two years” that coincided with a combined 38-126 record.

The 37-year-old Kobe Bryant faced season-long concerns with his durability after suffering three-season ending injuries in consecutive seasons. He also averaged 17.6 points on a career-low 35.8 percent mark from the field in his 20th and final NBA season. Rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell, second-year forward Julius Randle, second-year guard Jordan Clarkson, Nance and rookie forward Anthony Brown all represent the Lakers’ long-term future. Yet the Lakers also saw Russell and Randle, in particular, struggle with playing consistently. The Lakers liked the veteran presence from Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass, Metta World Peace and Lou Williams, but none of those players made enough of an impact to change the bottom-line results.

Some on the Lakers roster did not express as much sympathy regarding Scott’s departure.

“Not shocked honestly,” said one Lakers player who requested anonymity. “But I think a fresh start could be good.”

Scott faced varying degrees of support and concern internally about how he handled the Lakers’ young players.

Some lauded Scott’s no-nonsense approach. He yanked the starting spots from Russell and Randle 20 games into the season amid frustration with both the team’s slow starts and their consistency. Scott rarely dialed back the intensity of his practices during the season. He never hesitated to critique them both privately and publicly.

Some found the approach counterproductive. They thought it inhibited the young players’ growth and confidence. Scott’s continuous support of Bryant and other veterans also sent mixed signals on both how he would hold all of his players accountable and divide up playing time.

Nance viewed things differently. After averaging 5.5 points on 52.7 percent shooting and five rebounds, Nance expressed gratitude for his heightened role as both a starter and reserve.

“I’m a big fan [of Scott]. That’s definitely something I’ll never forget,” said Nance, who the Lakers drafted 27th overall out of the University of Wyoming. “Not many coaches give a rookie a chance to get on the court like that. I’m definitely thankful for that opportunity. I hate to see [a firing] happen like that. He’s been always great to me. I wish him the best.”

Nance also wished the Lakers the best as they conduct a coaching search. After finishing 26th out of 30 NBA teams last season in points allowed (106.9) and 29th in defensive field-goal percentage (47.3), Nance pointed to one specific area he hopes the Lakers’ next head coach revamps.

“I love a defensive coach,” Nance said. “That’s what I played for my entire life. A defensive minded coach will bode well. I always enjoy playing for guys like that, and coach that is personable where you’re not afraid to go up to his office and ask questions and a guy that is willing to coach his players.”


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