On Sunday Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal brought up a topic of discussion that many have been afraid to talk about all season long: the Byron Scott situation. Through his first three seasons as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Scott has gone a paltry 62-158 (.282), with his first season following LeBron James leaving town being his worst thus far. His first season with the team that he coached before Cleveland – the New Orleans Hornets – has been the worst of his almost 12 complete seasons as a head coach.
In Scott’s defense, he inherited a team that was almost completely stripped of talent and depth. The Cavs’ organization was moving in a direction where they needed to start from scratch and endure some dark times in order to have the best chance at receiving high draft picks.
Scott has been in this situation before with the Hornets, so fans shouldn’t give up on him so quick without looking what he did with the Hornets before and after Chris Paul entered the league. Just like in Cleveland, Scott didn’t have a superstar point guard until his second season coaching in New Orleans. In his first season with the team, Scott coached the Hornets to a Western Conference-worst record of 18-64 (.220).
In the following two seasons – Paul’s rookie and sophomore seasons – the team dramatically improved. With the additions of Paul and David West, the team went a combined 77-87 (.470). Although these percentages are much higher than what Scott currently stands at in his second and third seasons with Cleveland (43-93), the Hornets’ two highest scoring players played 40 more games than the Cavaliers’ two highest scoring players (I converted the 66-game season to an 82-game season and left Dion Waiters’ and Irving’s number of games played the same for this current season). Injuries have plagued Scott’s second two seasons in Cleveland, as players have had to shift from the D-League to the Cavaliers on what seems is an almost everyday basis.
But as mentioned before, Lloyd brings up a very compelling argument against keeping Byron Scott around:
This team has been ravaged with injuries again this season, but the concerns aren’t related to the roster. They are core beliefs and in-game coaching strategies ranging from play calls to substitution patterns, his refusal to call timeouts at crucial junctures and an overall lack of defense.
And these problems with Scott’s coaching schemes have been factors in why Cleveland can’t hold double-digit leads late down the stretch. Defensive breakdowns have occurred against the elite NBA teams and even bottom dwellers, so the problem isn’t the level of play of the teams that Cleveland is faltering against. Two of the biggest collapses (a 28-point lead against the Suns and a 27-point lead against the Heat) in franchise history have occurred in just this one season. So can we point our fingers directly at Scott even with taking into account injuries and talent depth?
Byron Scott wants this team to be a defensive-first squad, so giving him the chance with healthy defensive-minded players is needed before we give Scott the boot before the end of the 2013-14 season. But is there a reason why players are constantly rotating on and off of the injury report?
Players have spoken out and addressed this question anonymously about Scott’s hard-pressed workouts and practices lately:
We’re exhausted. It goes back to training camp. He killed us in camp. We don’t have any legs left.
Toughen up. Scott is the right man to lead this team, but this offseason will be one of the most important for Cleveland in years. Another season looking forward to the lottery will not bode well for the organization, meaning that a lot of people will be out the Quicken Loans door if there isn’t improvement at the beginning of the 2013-14 season.