Beneath all the hubbub about Kobe Bryant’s retirement, the Los Angeles Lakers are still trying to rebuild their team around their two most recent lottery picks, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. But what should be a season primarily focused — besides the Kobe hosannas — on getting Russell and Randle minutes has been muddled by the confusing decisions of head coach Byron Scott.
The latest head-scratcher was Scott moving Randle and Russell out of the starting lineup and bringing them off the bench in Monday night’s loss to the Toronto Raptors. Hilariously, the man who replaced Randle in the starting lineup was the Lakers’ other first-round pick from this summer, Larry Nance, Jr., who finished with more minutes than either of the other two. Here’s how Scott justified his decision:
What a load of… Actually, hold on a second. Byron actually makes a couple of great points here, but to illustrate why, we’ll first have to bring in the youngsters’ reactions to getting benched.
First off, neither Randle or Russell had ever been benched before, and they don’t seem happy about it. Maybe we’re just curmudgeons, but this sounds like it could actually be a good thing! Both of these players were highly touted recruits who went straight to being highly touted draft picks. Now they play for a bad team that is absolutely terrible at a lot of things, but most of all sharing the basketball (they’re second to last in assist ratio and dead last in assists per game). It sounds like these kids could use a little bit of humbling, and a little reminder that it’s a team game that isn’t centered around them quite yet.
The dual benefits of discovering what it’s like to be benched and not having to play with Kobe might not actually bear fruit, and certainly won’t right away — and Scott still isn’t playing Russell enough minutes. But even though Randle’s looked great on the boards and in the low block, neither of them are sharing the ball enough, and if coming off the bench encourages them to do it more, we’re all for it.