After suffering the worst win percentage in franchise history, the Los Angeles Lakers selected D’Angelo Russell with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. With Kobe Bryant nearing the end of his career, many have high hopes Russell will carry the torch and lead the Lakers back to contention.
Through the first 14 games of his rookie season, it has not been an easy transition for Russell. Although the point guard is still learning his strengths and weaknesses in the NBA, there has been controversy surrounding head coach Byron Scott not playing him in fourth quarters.
In the 111-77 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Russell did not play in the fourth quarter as the Lakers were blown out. Following the game, Russell expressed a desire to play in fourth quarters regardless of the score according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
“That would be great,” Russell told Los Angeles News Group. “You’re only a rookie once. You get reps now and mess up now. So then next year when you’re not a rookie, you don’t have to worry about making rookie mistakes.”
However, Scott felt there was not a reason to play Russell and wanted to see some other players, via Medina:
“Nah. There’s really no reason to. At that particular time we’re down 30 [points],” Scott said. “I wanted to get Ryan [Kelly] some time and Marcelo [Huertas] as well and some other guys that haven’t played a lot.”
With the Lakers 2-12 to start the season, the priority should be on player development and allowing Russell to play through his mistakes. Despite limited minutes to start his rookie season, Russell has averaged 12.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 28.8 minutes over the past five games.
With Russell looking more comfortable on the court, there is hope his role will continue to expand. Since the point guard position is the most difficult to learn, Russell playing regardless of the score is crucial to his development and how quickly the Lakers can ultimately return to contention.