Those who watched the Los Angeles Lakers play against the Miami Heat on Tuesday, November 10, saw that D’Angelo Russell sat on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. Russell might be a rookie, but fans and critics agree that the point guard is an important part of the Lakers’ future. If the team wants to see him thrive, they need to let him play.
However, Coach Byron Scott has chosen Lou Williams, who hasn’t played well recently, to play in three of the seven games so far – and put Russell on the bench. The game against the Heat turned out to be a 101-88 loss for the Lakers.
In an attempt to explain why he had Russell sit these games out, Scott told ESPN his thinking.
“I’m not just going to put him out there to put him out there. If I do that and he’s not prepared and he’s not learning, then I’m preparing him to fail. And I’m not going to do that. I think this kid is too valuable to us. His learning process is getting better and better. Our coaches are spending more time with him. I’m pretty comfortable and confident that he’s going to be better in a week or so and he’ll understand exactly what we need from him on a night-to-night basis. I’m not going to throw him to the wolves, per se, just because he’s the No. 2 pick. When he’s in there and he’s playing in the last quarter of the game, it’s going to be because he’s totally prepared.”
He also explained that they’re working on preparing Russell for the fourth quarter, but that it might take a little time. He doesn’t want to damage Russell’s confidence by risking failure.
Instead, Scott explained that the Lakers are trying to bolster Russell’s confidence, saying that he’s only sitting out for the first few games of the season. He’ll have his chance to shine soon.
Scott’s reason for keeping Russell benched seems fairly grounded, but some are still skeptical about Russell’s preparedness. After all, he’s averaging 8.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in the 24 minute average he’s playing per game.
But it’s not quite good enough for Scott, who has the reputation of the Lakers to uphold. The Los Angeles Lakers have a long and impressive history. Since 1947, they’ve won 16 championships, 31 conference titles, and 23 division titles.
They also hold the record for the longest winning streak in the NBA, with 33 straight games in the 1971-72 season. With all of that behind them the team is worth $2.6 billion and they have millions of fans around the world.
However, right now, the Lakers are running into several issues with their veteran players. Kobe Bryant hasn’t been playing well, due to an injured back and various other aches and pains. At this point, it’s pretty clear that this will be Bryant’s last season.
All in all, Scott has a lot of work to do in order to uphold the legacy of the Lakers, and believes that holding Russell back until he’s ready is the best move.
“He’s got great vision,” Scott continued. “We all know that. But sometimes you’ve got to make the simple play. That’s the thing that we’re trying to convey to him as well.”
Russell is anxious for some play, however. “I’m built for this,” he told ESPN. But he admits that he also has some room to learn and grow as a player.
“I’m always comfortable,” he said. “It’s just learning the system. It’s all about opportunity, so once you get the opportunity, you’ve got to capitalize on it.”
After the interview with coach Byron Scott, it’s a little clearer why D’Angelo Russell has been benched recently – but fans around the world are excited to see him play in the near future.
[Image via Sam Greenwood/Getty Images]