Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott says he's going to make a concerted effort to play the team's young players more after the All-Star break. Apparently, that effort does not apply to rookie guard D'Angelo Russell.
Scott said Russell will not be in the starting lineup when the Lakers return to the court Friday against the San Antonio Spurs, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. The second overall pick has started only 22 of 53 games so far this season, a point of contention with many Lakers fans.
While Russell hasn't been an instant star, Scott's deployment of the former Ohio State standout has been inconsistent at best. The relationship has seemingly bordered on tenuous at points, including a number of strangely critical comments from Scott. Earlier this month, he compared Russell unfavorably to Kyrie Irving, whom Scott also coached during his rookie season.
“He was a little bit more business-like at practice and games,” Scott said of Irving, per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. “D’Angelo still has a playfulness about him. Sometimes in practice he’s joking around and losing a little bit of focus.”
Russell has also been critical of his coach, calling out the Lakers' offensive system in December while speaking to reporters.
Fellow guard Jordan Clarkson was also caught on a hot mic telling Russell to not "say anything crazy" when asked about his playing time following the Rising Stars Challenge in Toronto. Russell scored 22 points and dished seven assists in 17 minutes of playing time, later telling reporters the game was a "confidence-builder."
As for how Russell may get more playing time, it may come at the expense of Kobe Bryant. Scott said Bryant will play a "tad less" after the break, per Medina, but did not elaborate on a minutes limit. Bryant has averaged 29.3 minutes per game so far in his final NBA season, and Scott has not been shy about playing him extended time. He had 30-plus minutes in four of five February games before the break.
"[I] feel horrible," Bryant said after last Wednesday's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, per Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com. "My ankles, knees, everything. This stretch couldn't come at a better time. My ankles hurt. My knees hurt. So I'm looking forward to having a complete week where I just do nothing."
Of course, Bryant's week of nothingness included an All-Star Weekend bonanza where he was the star of the show. He was a fixture in Toronto all weekend and was given guest-of-honor status throughout the Western Conference's record-setting win. It wouldn't be a surprise if Bryant needed a break from his break.
As with all things Lakers, though, it's best to take everything with a grain of salt. Scott has proved himself nothing if inconsistent since taking over. Remember that whole thing about Kobe having a hard cap on minutes? Didn't last long. Or last month when Scott said to Shahan Ahmed of NBC Los Angeles that it was a "priority" for Russell to re-enter the starting lineup? Whoopsies.
It's probably for the best that we keep everything in perspective and allow things to play out how they will on the floor.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.
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