There’s no rookie of the year award waiting at the end of this season for D’Angelo Russell, but his recent performances, playing in the lineup for the Los Angeles Lakers, are like one big F U to Byron Scott and a sign that the point guard is stepping in the right direction.
Russell finished with a career high 39 points as the Lakers beat the Brooklyn Nets. Russell played in the lineup for the fifth consecutive game while Bryant is sitting out. It was the third consecutive game for Russell with 22 points or more. He shot 8-of-12 from beyond the arc in what was by far his best game as an NBA player. It’s a sign that Russell is improving as a scorer, while his passing ability has improved, only to be seen in other games.
Averaging 12.9 points and 3.4 assists per game while playing 27.5 minutes a night, this has been an OK rookie campaign for Russell, shooting 42.9% from the field and 36.1% from beyond the arc. Nothing special, but nothing too bad. Considering he’s been working under a head coach who has openly shown his disdain and inability to make Russell better and teach him anything, while sharing the ball with Bryant and Jordan Clarkson, it hasn’t been that bad of a job.
Scott has done everything to undermine Russell’s rookie year for some reason. Sometimes he likes to act as if Russell’s good games have something to do with him. Basically, Russell has no idea what Scott wants from him at this point, so getting minutes, which should be logical on a tanking team for a promising rookie, is the best way for him to adjust to big minutes in the NBA and actually improve as a player, which should have been the whole point of this season, although not just for Russell.
Sometimes I wonder what goes on through Scott’s mind as he crosses his arms and stares at the court with a combination of boredom and irritation on his face. Is he aware that he has contributed nothing to the good things going on? Is he aware that all his job is to keep this ship tanking until the front office feels it’s time to contend? Does he care about anything besides keeping Kobe Bryant happy? Is he aware this is the last time he’ll be an NBA coach?
Russell will soon be rid of a coach who has no idea all season how to develop and improve him, and had very interest in that too. At some point, this weird, failing chapter in Lakers history will be over, probably, although it might take more than the departure of Scott and Bryant to usher it in. Will Russell be one of those involved in the rising? We’re getting more and more indications that he will, but nothing is certain yet.