Byron Scott Should Not Have to Defend Job Status, as Cavaliers Have Suffered Poor Health During Tenure

Byron ScottBOSTON — The vultures are circling Byron Scott.

The third-year coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers was at TD Garden on Friday, preparing to lead his injury-ravaged, last-place team against the Celtics. A day earlier, he had been asked to address his job status, and while he declined to defend his body of work, a quick glance at his win-loss record with the Cavs made it easy to understand why some might say Scott does not deserve a fourth year in Cleveland.

The Cavs are 62-160 under Scott, finishing no better than 13th in the Eastern Conference during his tenure. They are headed for another spring without playoffs and yet another high draft pick this season, and they entered Friday’s game losers of 10 straight. The Cliff’s notes version is not kind to Scott.

The book on Scott is very different, though, and without openly advocating for him to keep his job, it is difficult to declare that he deserves to lose it.

The next game Scott coaches with his full complement of players may well be his first. Much has been made in Boston of the how decimated the Celtics have been by injuries, but for Scott and the Cavs, that has been a three-year battle. Anderson Varejao was having an All-Star caliber season before a blood clot in his lung ended his 2012-13 campaign after just 25 games. Rookie guard Dion Waiters is out indefinitely with a knee injury, and dynamo point guard Kyrie Irving has now had injury trouble in both of his NBA seasons, including a sprained shoulder from which he is still recovering.

These are not isolated incidents. Varejao suited up for only 25 games last season, too, and 31 games the season before that. In Scott’s first year on the job, in 2010-11, the projected starting backcourt of Baron Davis and Mo Williams played 51 out of a possible 164 man-games.

Before going into Scott’s coaching style, which features obvious traces of the bootcamp he endured under Pat Riley in winning three NBA titles with the Lakers, every evaluation of Scott’s performance with the Cavs has to be viewed in the context of the injury troubles. He probably runs his players too hard in shootarounds (which really should not be a problem for a team that has only two players over the age of 29) and he is averse to the momentum-halting timeout (which is more of a problem for a young team needing direction at times of adversity). But he has had loads of success in the past with great point guards, and Irving is a great point guard in the making.

With Jason Kidd running the plays and Scott running the show, the New Jersey Nets went to two straight NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003. Under Scott, Chris Paul took the Hornets about as far as they could expect to go in the Western Conference in 2008. Some might say success was inevitable with two all-world players like those, but neither player has made it nearly as far in the postseason since their partnership with Scott ended. Aside from Larry Brown, there may be no coach better suited to help the development of a future perennial All-Star guard. As for non-point guards, it is tough to find fault with the way Tristan Thompson has developed this season in his second year with Scott.

If the Cavs fail to bring back Scott for the final season of a reported four-year contract, their decision will not be without cause. A team is what its record says it is, and for three years under Scott, the Cavs have been bad. Still, the Cavs have yet to see what Scott can do with the talent on the roster, because it has so seldom been reflected in the talent on the court.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.

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