The Los Angeles Lakers trimmed their roster down to 15 players this morning, after waiving guard Jabari Brown. At Monday’s practice, head coach Byron Scott said cutting Brown was one of the most difficult decisions he’s had to make as a head coach, but they ultimately had to balance youth and experience and chose the veteran leadership of Metta World Peace.
Throughout training camp, World Peace maintained a simplistic, work-hard approach, publicly unconcerned about whether or not he would make the Lakers final roster, and after making the cut, his goal remains the same.
“Some would say I would feel relief and joy but it is a flat emotion, cause I’m focused on one thing. My goal hasn’t changed since the first day I signed my non-guaranteed contract,” Peace said when asked about his state of mind after making the 15-man roster. “I wanted to come here and try to win a championship and my goal hasn’t changed, so there’s nothing to fill. It’s the same exact goals that I had when I came here.”
The Lakers open up the regular season in two days, but the starting point guard position is still up in the air. Scott said Kobe Bryant (assuming he’s healthy), Roy Hibbert, Julius Randle and likely Jordan Clarkson will be in the starting lineup, but he is still making a decision on D’Angelo Russell.
“It’s just the fact that he’s still very young, very talented, he’s still getting a grasp of everything that’s going on,” Scott said when asked about Russell’s undecided starting lineup status. “What I will say is, that his last couple of days of practice have been really good. I like the direction that he’s headed.”
Scott also said he sat down with Russell Sunday to talk about his role, which he does with all of his players, individually. Russell mentioned in an interview after the Lakers preseason loss to the Sacramento Kings that once his role was clarified during the season, things would fall into place much easier for him.
On Monday, Scott said he was confident Russell was clear now with his role, even inviting the media to ask Russell about it. The media obliged.
“Just be really focused on playing hard all the time, defense, rebound,” Russell responded when asked about his conversation with Scott. “I told him I thought my role was facilitate, be a play-maker, he said, ‘That’s what you’re going to do naturally, so I’m not going to label you with that.’ He was just saying if I do all of those other things, play-making and decision-making will come easier.”
Russell simplified his understanding of his role as a “defensive, play-making energy type guy,” and said with everyone knowing their role, everything is easier.
It’s clear Scott wants to challenge Russell to become a better defender, and rather than hand Russell the keys because of his draft status, wants him to prove himself. We’ll find out Wednesday in the Lakers season-opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves, whether Russell has earned the starting role.