Here is a quote concerning Hornet’s coach Byron Scott’s handling of current Denver sixth man J.R. Smith when Smith was a rookie with the Hornets:
“From the time Smith played in his first summer-league game in Long Beach, Calif., Scott was tough on him. He only referred to Smith as “Rook” throughout the 2004-05 season. Scott also pushed Bass to be mostly a defender and rebounder, although Bass, a former LSU standout, was mainly a scorer in college.”
The article goes on to show that Scott is unrepentant about his handling of Smith, Brandon Bass who was traded to the Mavs and has blossomed there, and current Hornet second year man Julian Wright. The article is balanced in it’s handling of Scott, quoting the Hornet’s GM in support of how Scott has appropriate high expectations of rookies on a veteran team that is contending for the lead in their division and in the Western Conference.
What I want to muse about is a very revealing quote from coach Scott himself that occurs late in the original article by John Reid of the Times-Picayune, the New Orleans daily newspaper. The quote ended the article and received no comment by Mr Reid.
“Scott remains steadfast when it comes to dealing with younger players. He remembers his days as a rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1983, where he had to earn the respect of veterans as well as earn playing time on a championship team. Now he’s trying to get the same mental toughness across to his younger players. “They traded Norm Nixon for me, and everybody acted like it was my fault, ” Scott said. “For the first two weeks, they (teammates) were trying to beat me up in practice, hit me and knock me down. Then I said, ‘That’s the last time this is going to happen.’ I told Michael Cooper, ‘If you hit me again, I’m going to be swinging.’ That got me respect from them, and like I told them, I brought my own shoes, my own game, and I didn’t make the trade. The next day, Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) spoke to me and stopped calling me ‘Rook.’ ”
“I’m hard on them because I’ve always prided myself on not making the same mistakes twice. If a guy beat me once, he’s not going to beat me on the same play again. But I still think it takes three or four years before a young player starts understanding what they really need to do.”
I’m a retired psychologist so maybe it’s just me but coach Scott seems to have given us a glimpse into the usually hidden psyche of an NBA head coach.
Scott was called “rook” until he stood up to one of his tormentors, and now he refers to Hornet rookies as “rook” until they meet his expectations.
Times have changed Coach!
- Coach Scott was a 22yr old college junior when he was drafted and then traded to the Lakers.
- J.R. Smith was a 19yr old out of St. Benedicts Prepatory School.
- Brandon Bass was a 20yr old LSU sophomore.
- Julian Wright was a 20yr old Kansas sophomore.
By the time Smith and Bass were 22 they had been given up on by coach Scott and the Hornets and traded to teams where they have since flourished. J.R. Smith is a candidate for NBA Sixth-Man-of-the-Year and Bass is the kind of paint presence the Hornets could sorely use right now instead of the apparently more compliant nonentities who dwell deep down coach Scott’s bench.
To his credit J.R. Smith acknowledges he was immature:
“It’s one of those situations that if I knew then what I know now, being more mature off the court, it definitely would have been better, ” Smith said. “I really was hard-headed, and I pretty much did what I wanted to do. I think we both could have handled the situation different, but that just wasn’t the case.”
Smith apparently has held no grudge from his treatment in New Orleans. There was this recent announcement in the Denver paper:
“J.R. Smith said he likely will choose a Hurricane Katrina charity for a $25,000 donation courtesy of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Cuban will match his recent fine for antics in Denver. Smith, with New Orleans during the 2005 hurricane, has donated before to Katrina relief.”
Coach Scott had better nourish and cherish the talented Julian Wright before he, too, departs the Hornets and fulfills his early promise for another team.