Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott's adversarial relationship with rookie D'Angelo Russell is well noted at this point. The two have rarely seen eye to eye this season, and Scott has found criticism after criticism -- sometimes even contradicting his reasoning -- to bench Russell in the fourth quarter and late in close games.
Tuesday night's 92-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks was the latest chapter of Scott and Russell's ongoing disagreement with one another.
Scott benched Russell at the 2:31 mark of the fourth, with the Lakers down by two points, for doing too much and "trying to take over," according to ESPN.com:
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"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," Scott said. "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."
In general, Scott said of Russell, "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."
This is the exact mindset Scott criticized Russell for not playing with earlier in the season, yet now Russell is too aggressive -- a quality not unlike a Lakers legend who happens to be Russell's teammate (cough, Kobe Bryant, cough).
Russell finished with 12 points (4-of-12 shooting) to go along with two rebounds and no assists in 25 minutes on the night. He defended his play after the game, as he has done several times this season:
"We had four, five play-making players out there," Russell said. "I feel like everybody was trying to [take over]. They're a veteran team. They rarely mess up. So when you catch them slipping a little bit, you've got to take advantage of it."
Russell added, "I feel like I was taking advantage of what they were giving me. It was a small split window of taking a shot or passing it up with a shot-clock violation on the line. It was always in my hands and I had to take a shot. I missed it. I don't know if he would've said that if I was making those shots."
That last comment seems like somewhat of a barb towards Scott, as Russell is implying Scott is being too reactive -- judging Russell's makes and misses -- instead of looking at the bigger picture and seeing the vast progress his rookie point guard is making.
Basically, Russell is saying process over results. And we all know Scott's opinion on that ideology.
Scott claims that he indeed enjoys Russell's confidence, but thinks it can borderline on cockiness too much -- again, look at No. 24 -- which can hurt his game:
"I love the fact that he has confidence," Scott said. "When it gets to the point where it's cockiness, then we've got a problem."
While Scott certainly has a point of Russell perhaps trying to do too much -- it's inexcusable for Russell to record zero assists in 25 minutes of action -- that type of play should be lauded, not criticized.
The Lakers aren't making the playoffs this season. It's in their best interest to lose. Let Russell run free and spread his wings -- see what his potential, what his strengths. You don't know unless you try. But caging him up and acting like this is a squad with something at stake is misguided at best and possibly destructive at worst.
Following some of the fallout to Scott's explanation, Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News tweeted that he's heard rumblings from in and out of the Lakers' organization -- aside from Scott -- that Russell's cockiness can be an issue at times:
FWIW, Byron's criticisms about D'Angelo aren't solely unique to Byron. I've heard same sentiment from others in + outside Lakers— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) January 27, 2016
Scott and the rest of the Lakers' staff are obviously around Russell more than than anyone in the media is, so maybe the problem is as bad as they're making it sound. Very few people actually know the truth.
But from the outside looking in, it appears that Scott might be being a little too harsh on their prized rookie, and is looking for anyway to justify his disdain for playing inexperienced players.
Jovan Buha covers the NBA for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jovanbuha.