There has been some talk about whether or not Byron Scott deserves to be on the hot seat. The basis of this isn’t because of the Cavs win/loss record, but because of the way Scott has berated his players lack of effort throughout the season and also because of things such as a lack of lineup management and poor execution down the stretch of close games.
There is certainly some merit to this discussion – Scott deserves a fair share of the blame for how this horrible season has progressed. I have thought at times if the Cavs wouldn’t be better served by letting Scott go and hiring a young, up and coming coach to grow with this young team. But Scott was dealt such a horrible hand that there just isn’t a lot he could have done to make this season go any better.
Lets face it, the roster right now is not much better than a D-League roster. Injuries to Anderson Varejao, Antawn Jamison, Daniel Gibson Mo Williams and Baron Davis has made it impossible for Scott to put together a consistent rotation. Teams that are looking at the playoffs right now are filled with established veterans who have well defined roles – the Cavs don’t really have a lot of that. Throw injuries to all of your top players into the equation, and you make Scott’s job next to impossible. So sure, there hasn’t been a consistent rotation, but I ask – how do you make a consistent rotation out of players like Manny Harris, Christian Eyenga, Samardo Samuels, and Luke Harangody?
Another common criticism of Scott has been his inability to develop younger players, and in the past this has been the case. Last year with the Hornets, Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton flourished after Scott got fired, and players like JR Smith and Brandon Bass went on to have productive careers once they were traded away from Byron Scott coached teams. But whatever Byron has done to JJ Hickson this year, it has worked. He has been riding JJ all season long and because of that we have seen JJ turn into the high energy offensive finisher he always had the potential to be. By playing JJ at C, he has put him in a position where he can best succeed on offense. Sure, there are still warts in his game, but he has progressively gotten better as the year has gone on, and Scott deserves a lot of credit for this. You can’t just say Scott hasn’t developed young players anymore.
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The biggest complaint about Scott in that article I linked to stems from how he will call out his players in the media in an effort to motivate them. I think this is really a matter of preference – some people think this sort of behavior is OK, others do not. Phil Jackson often uses the media to call out players both young and old, and although Scott is nothing like Jackson as a coach it just shows that some coaches do this sort of thing and it works out fine. There is no one way to try and reach your players and motivate them. You can argue that this clearly did not work for Scott and the Cavs based on their record, but this team has gotten better as the year has gone on, even if only by a little. During the horrible losing streak, the Cavs had a healthy Varejao for parts, and they had a healthy Jamison for the duration. But during this stretch of improved effort and results, they have been led by the less established young guns. Clearly Scott is doing something that is making this team play better. Baron Davis has a lot to do with this – he has been a great floor general and a leader in all the ways Mo Williams is not – but Scott has gotten this team to play better and deserves some credit.
This isn’t at all to say that coach Scott deserves an A for the work he has done this year. In fact, I would probably give him something closer to a C. The massive losing streak should never have happened and for stretches it has looked like the team had given up. If the debate is whether or not Byron Scott is the guy to take the Cavs back to the top, then that debate is a legitimate one. But a 1st year coach that has done what Scott has done this year with players like Hickson and Sessions does not deserve to be fired. A lot of things need to get better next year, but Scott deserves a chance to make those things better. This team clearly suffered a post-LeBron hangover, but that is over. Now lets see what Scott can do. He has earned it.
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