You play to win the game! Winning is everything! If you ain’t first, you’re last. We’ve all heard these things before, it’s ingrained in every athlete to go out and win the game. Winning is always a priority.
However, if you are the Los Angeles Lakers and Byron Scott, winning takes a back seat to the development of the young core of players: Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers priority should be rather clear and simple; develop young guys and if wins happen through that process so be it. Winning shouldn’t be the number one priority for the Lakers (not this season). Lakers cannot judge the success of this season by wins and losses. This team was never going to make the playoffs. The best case scenario for the Lakers if everything broke their way is 35 wins. This is why it is baffling to see how Byron Scott is running this team. I get he’s old school and has that old school mentality about the game of basketball, but it’s coming at a price of not developing the Lakers most important asset – D’Angelo Russell. Byron needs to understand that while winning is important; it isn’t as important as Clarkson, Randle and Russell getting as much experience as possible even if it means losing a few games in the process.
This is where owner Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak must intervene and remind Byron that in games like tonight against the Heat when you are down 17 points with 5 minutes to go you bring in Russell. You forget about the score and give the kid a chance to grow and develop. Not just in blowout games, but going forward, Russell along with the other young players need to get experience.
What is more disheartening and frustrating is not just how Byron is mismanaging Russell but the comments he makes after the game. Byron Scott “No, 3 minutes left in the game, it was an 18- point lead or something like that, no I didn’t really think about bringing him back in at that time.”
Really Byron? You didn’t think about bringing back Russell into the game? Why not? It makes no sense since you don’t want to play him close games because you prefer Lou Williams’s experience. Okay that has some merit to it but to say you didn’t even “think” about bringing Russell back into the game when it was pretty much over at that point. The question is, what are you thinking? I will tell what Laker fans were thinking during that part of the game; they were saying where is Russell? Why isn’t he in the game? And sadly some were probably thinking fire Byron Scott.
Lakers need to fix this and fix this fast. They need to get their priorities in order. Development comes before everything. Developing players is the goal of this entire season. Kobe is on his way out and what will remain will be the young core of players who will have to carry the Lakers going forward. This season will be a disaster if the Lakers continue to be horrible and Byron delays the growth and development of the young players all because he “wanted to win” games that in the big scheme of things do not matter.
And you can’t help but feel for Russell who doesn’t know why he isn’t playing in the fourth quarter. Why he played the fewest minutes amongst the starting five. Why he has had to sit on the bench through three fourth quarters in this early season.
It all has to do with priorities. It’s that simple when Byron Scott can understand that D’Angelo Russell’s development is more important than finishing 12th in the Western Conference then maybe Laker fans can finally enjoy and become patient with this long season.