Nov 18, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott is shown on the sideline in the fourth quarter of their game against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. The Lakers won 114-109. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
First, Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott said he benched rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell during the fourth quarter because it was a close game.
Now, Scott is saying he benched Russell in the fourth quarter because the opponent's lead was too big. Does that make any sense?
Scott took Russell out at the 4:52 mark in the third quarter of the Lakers' 101-88 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday. Instead of putting Russell back into the game once it was out of reach in the fourth, Scott kept him the bench for an indefensible reason, via Serena Winters of Lakers Nation:
Scott has made it clear that he's prioritizing winning over the development of the Lakers' younger players, which is a bit confusing given the Lakers' roster. Already 1-6, it's clear the Lakers are going to miss the playoffs for the third straight season and finish with one of the league's worst five records.
Playing a guy like Lou Williams, who may be marginally better than Russell at this point, over Russell is illogical. If Russell, the No. 2 overall selection of the 2015 draft, is to become the floor general the Lakers envisioned when they selected him over rookie standouts Jahlil Okafor and Kristaps Porzingis, he needs reps and on-court experience running the team -- especially in crunch time.
Benching him in a close game is one thing -- Williams had the hot hand in the Nuggets loss, and Scott was riding that wave. But if a game is already a blowout, what's the upside of playing Williams or Marcelo Huertas? Neither player is a prominent piece of the Lakers' future, yet both played over Russell in the final frame on Tuesday.
To make matters worse, Kobe Bryant sat out the game because of back trouble -- theoretically opening up more minutes for Russell -- yet Russell only logged 21 minutes.
Russell clearly has an issue with his lack of crunch-time minutes. He expressed frutstration after the Nuggets game, and when asked if Scott has explained to him what he was doing wrong to deserve being benched, Russell was curt:
Scott's patience is low, and that's understandable. No one likes to lose. But being the coach of this Lakers team means accepting that you're going to win between 20 to 25 games (maybe even less at this point), and focusing on nurturing the team's tantalizing young talent. Half of the league, if not more, would love to have a promising trio like the Lakers do with Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson.
But the Lakers are wasting and mismanaging their future for what? A 13-point loss to the Heat instead of a 20-point loss? If the Lakers are not going to be good either way -- which they're not -- they might as well develop the talent that can potentially lead them out of these dark days.