With the Los Angeles Lakers 3-17 heading into their matchup against the Toronto Raptors, head coach Byron Scott made a change to his starting lineup.
Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell headed to the bench in favor of Larry Nance Jr. and Lou Williams. Despite the change and strong performances from both players, the Lakers still lost 102-93.
Following the loss, Russell was asked about coming off the bench for the first time in his rookie season. While the rookie meant no disrespect towards Kobe Bryant, he acknowledged there was more ball movement, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN:
DAR on playing w/o Kobe: "There's more ball movement. No disrespect to Kobe, but u just know u have more opportunities bc he's who he is."
— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) December 8, 2015
In the first half, Russell seemed to struggle with Scott’s decision as he was trying to familiarize himself with his new teammates. However, he was able to adjust in the second half and finished with nine points, three rebounds and two assists.
While playing without Kobe allows Russell to be the primary playmaker, he only played 21 minutes and could be a troubling trend as his development is crucial to long-term plans.
With the Lakers traveling to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, it will be another matchup between Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. As both franchises are looking to rebuild themselves into contenders, many have praised Kevin Garnett’s role in mentoring the team’s young core.
Russell is averaging 10.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 27.4 minutes.