Byron Scott and Luke Walton had an unexpected meeting a few months ago, crossing paths at a restaurant after one of the Lakers’ late-season games. After exchanging pleasantries, their conversation shifted to Walton’s first season as the Lakers’ head coach.
“I told him he’s doing a good job and to keep it up,” Scott said of Walton, whose team finished 26-56 as the organization made its fourth consecutive trip to the NBA draft lottery. “He told me a little bit about his frustrations, which I understood. But I thought he did a good job under the circumstances. If they give him a couple of those pieces that I’m sure they will, he’ll be much better next year.”
The Lakers’ brass has offered Walton unequivocal support. Everyone from controlling owner Jeanie Buss to president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka praises his performance and the culture he is creating.
Scott remembers a far different environment when he was the head coach with a different front office. His teams went a combined 38-126 during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons as he tried to juggle managing the final injury-plagued seasons of Kobe Bryant’s career while trying to develop a young roster. He was fired, replaced quickly by Walton, then a Golden State assistant coach.
Scott said he “felt betrayed, lied to and deceived” by former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and former executive Jim Buss. Though he had only two guaranteed years on his four-year contract, Scott contends that Kupchak and Jim Buss previously promised him they would exercise the team option for his third year. Scott also believes the Lakers used him to manage Bryant during his final seasons and farewell tour before making the coach a scapegoat for the franchise’s struggles.
“If I asked him to do certain things, Kobe would do it because of his respect for me,” said Scott, who mentored Bryant during his rookie season in 1996-97. “Basically, you just wanted me there to…