There are problems aplenty in La La Land. D’Angelo Russell, the highly touted rookie, and coach Byron Scott are apparently at loggerheads.
The Los Angeles Lakers were embroiled in a tight contest against Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday evening. With 2:31 left in the final quarter at Staples Center, the home team trailed by just 2. During the previous possession, Russell missed a 3-point attempt that would have given his team the lead.
Just then, Scott benched Russell and offered a valid reason at the end of the team’s 38th defeat of the season. “I saw the last couple minutes that he was in that he was really trying to take over the game, and that’s not him yet,” said the former Showtime Laker. “I want the ball to move a little bit. I thought it stuck with him. He tried to make the big shots and things like that. I understand that, but to me, that’s not him right now,” added Scott.
Russell, drafted with as No 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, observed the rest of the game from the sidelines. The rookie looked evidently disgruntled.
Scott felt that Russell needed to take the harsh criticism in his stride, and move on to the next game. “He’s been more aggressive to score. I think sometimes he’s taking what they’re giving him, and I think there’s other times where I think he’s kind of forcing the issue. He has to find a happy medium. He’s learning,” said Scott of the 19-year-old point guard from Ohio State.
This isn’t the first time Russell has been benched during a crucial juncture. On several occasions this season, Scott has let out his anger at the rookie both on and off the court.
D’Angelo Russell finished with 12 points (4-12 FG), 2 rebounds and zero assists from nearly 25 minutes. “We had four, five playmaking players out there. I feel like everybody was trying to (take over). They’re (Dallas) a veteran team. They rarely mess up. So when you catch them slipping a little bit, you’ve got to take advantage of it,” the guard said after the game.
Cocky or confident?
There is a fine line between cockiness and confidence. After scoring a career-high 27 points in a January 7 road loss to the Sacramento Kings, Russell announced his arrival by proclaiming, “Y’all ain’t seen nothing yet. The world hasn’t seen anything yet.”
Those words didn’t sit well with Scott. “I love the fact that he has confidence. When it gets to the point where it’s cockiness, then we’ve got a problem,” the Lakers coach said at that time.
D’Angelo Russell has shown a lot of promise. But is he ready to mature into a reliable NBA pro?