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Byron Scott admits to giving ‘entitled’ D’Angelo Russell tough love


One of the prevailing — not to mention disconcerting — story lines during the Los Angeles Lakers’ disastrous 2015-26 campaign — outside of Kobe Bryant’s retirement, of course — was the level of antipathy that Byron Scott felt for rookie D’Angelo Russell.

While Scott’s apparent feelings for the young player manifested itself in his outward demeanor in many ways — from inconsistencies related to Russell’s playing time to publicly calling him out in the media — the former Lakers head coach insists all of it was done with the lone goal of making the rookie a better player in the end.

Scott made his comments concerning his “tough love” approach with Russell during an appearance on Monday’s episodeĀ  of “The Dan Patrick Show.” The exchange between Patrick and Scott follows, as transcribed by Eye on Basketball.

As the Lakers move forward, now that you’re no longer the coach is D’Angelo Russell the long-term — I mean, can he be a star at that position, point guard?

I think he can. Obviously, there will be some question marks with that. His work ethic has to get better. His understanding of the game has to get better, but he has some tools. He can flat out score, he really sees the floor extremely well. So he has some tools you can’t teach, but the little intricate parts of the game are the things he has to learn. And he’s 20 years old. I mean, he’s a young pup, he’s got a long ways to go, but if he puts in the work, I think the kid can be a great player.

Did you have to give him tough love?

Absolutely. Every now and then. I think some of these guys, when they come into the league, they think they’re entitled. And I thought that’s how he felt when he first got with us. He almost tried to act like he was a veteran, and I tried to make sure that he knew that he wasn’t a veteran. You have to earn your stripes. So yeah, there were times where I was a little tough on him just to bring him back down to earth, to let him know that this is not an easy task when you’re in the NBA. That’s the easy part is getting there. The hardest part is staying there, getting better and better and better. So yeah, I had some tough love for the young man. But just like I told him, ‘When I stop talking to you, that’s going to be a problem.’ I had a lot of love for him and he put himself in some tough situations obviously, but I think he’s going to be a good player.”

Even bearing in mind how he defended his treatment of Russell, there’s a decent chance Scott wishes he would have handled things differently with the rookie, especially because there’s a slim chance it may have saved his job.

As far as Russell is concerned, though, new Lakers head coach Luke Walton believes the 20-year-old has everything it takes to be “a perennial All-Star.” With that in mind, odds are Walton will choose to handle the young player far differently than how Scott approached him.