Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott said rookie D'Angelo Russell will start the rest of the season after the guard scored 15 points and dished out six assists on Sunday against the Chicago Bulls in his first start in more than two months, per Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com.
Russell, who is averaging 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest, started 22 of his first 24 games before being relegated to the bench after a Dec. 12 loss to the Houston Rockets. It had been a point of contention between the coach and player that made its way into the media more than once.
Russell spoke about the promotion after the game to TWC SportsNet (via Serena Winters of Lakers Nation):
I just want to get better. Coach always says you've always got something to play for. With however games are left, I feel like I've still got something to prove.
I don't want anybody to take it the wrong way but you feel like your best players are your starters and I feel like I'm going to keep the confidence and say I'm one of the best players, so I feel like I want to keep proving that I deserve to start, deserve to be out there and play crunch-time minutes. With these last few games I want to show that I have to be out there; build that trust with Coach that he has to put me on the floor.
Scott has called out his younger players' efforts on multiple occasions and has stuck with star Kobe Bryant during his final season more than some would have liked. However, it appears he now thinks giving Russell more minutes could help his game in the long run.
It's not like the 11-46 Lakers have anything else to lose at this point. Winters reported Scott liked what he saw in the rookie despite the loss to the Bulls: "[Russell] played well on both sides of the ball."
Here's a replay of Russell nailing a three-pointer Sunday to keep the game close in the final minutes, per the NBA:
Russell with a slick maneuver for the TREY on @ESPN! #NBARapidReplay #LALatCHI https://t.co/Or7aTpx9Mu2/22/2016, 3:19:47 AM
Despite not starting since December, Russell is fourth on the team in scoring, second in assists (behind Bryant) and first in steals. The talent is obviously there, and this announcement apparently has done wonders for Russell's confidence. If he can finish the season strong, it will be a good sign for next year heading into the offseason.