Byron Scott Is Refusing To Tell D’Angelo Russell Why He’s Spending Fourth Quarters On The Bench

D'Angelo Russell
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D’Angelo Russell sat and watched as his team’s comeback bid against the Miami Heat fell woefully short. For the third time in four games on Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers’ prized rookie spent the fourth quarter’s entirety on the bench. And as frustrating as that must have been for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 draft, perhaps more disheartening is that he’s still unsure why it proved the case.

Following Los Angeles’ 101-88 loss to Miami, reporters asked Russell if Byron Scott had shed any light on his lack of fourth-quarter playing time. Instead of allowing the 19-year-old to realize his mistakes and work to correct them, though, the Lakers’ embattled coach is taking a much different and far more vexing approach.

The Heat led the Lakers, who were playing without Kobe Bryant, 65-60 when Russell was replaced by Lou Williams with 4:52 left in the third quarter. He never returned to the game, and Los Angeles’ chances of winning happened to leave with him.

The purple and gold’s hopes of stealing a win on the road against a superior team likely didn’t hinge on Russell’s absence. They’re a league bottom-feeder, after all, and Miami has adjusted to its rebuilt roster surprisingly well on both ends of the floor in the season’s early going. It’s not like Bryant was available to give the Lakers a last-ditch chance for victory with vintage shot-making, either.

After the game, Scott explained to ESPN that Russell didn’t play in the fourth quarter because the score “got out of hand.” That may be the case. Either way, it certainly doesn’t seem like riding the pine yet again is doing anything positive for the teenager’s fledgling confidence.

Scott’s old-school coaching methods are no secret. He was reluctant to embrace three-pointers, openly disdains the league’s safety-conscious flagrant foul rules, and didn’t properly manage Bryant’s minutes or workload last season to account for the five-time champion’s age and health status. It’s safe to assume, basically, that Scott believes the best way to develop Russell is tough love in the form of playing time.

He admitted as much to ESPN last week after Los Angeles’ young floor general had been benched for consecutive fourth quarters.

“I think when you make a mistake over and over again, sometimes that wood has a good way of talking to your butt a little bit, too,” Scott said Friday before the Lakers’ 104-98 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. “Getting a couple splinters here and there, sometimes that has a great way of communicating how important it is to play on that [defensive] end of the floor.”

That approach might really be the surest means to Russell’s improvement. We’re not privy to frequent interactions with the former Ohio State star. But Scott is, and maybe he sees things from Russell on a daily basis that suggests a short leash will eventually lead to long strides.

However, this entire issue speaks to a much bigger one at hand in Los Angeles: that the Lakers are still refusing to fully embrace the youth movement. They have promising young pieces on the roster, and Russell is arguably the best of them. Whether he deserves a lion’s share of minutes in the back court, though, isn’t for outsiders to say. We don’t know Russell like Scott does.

But what’s certainly fair is that all players should be given the opportunity to strengthen their weaknesses. And by opting against telling the undeniably talented point guard why he’s being benched late in games, Scott isn’t affording it to Russell – and it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

(Via ESPN)