The Los Angeles Lakers remain winless as they get beaten by the Denver Nuggets 120-109, but worse – they stick to Kobe Bryant and Lou Williams with the game on the line, while Jordan Clarkson could use more room to operate, and probably more minutes next to D’Angelo Russell.
It’s hard to understand what the mindset of Byron Scott is, and whether or not these are his decisions or coming down from Mitch Kupchak or something. Instead of gradually pushing Kobe Bryant away from the focal point of this team, he’s right where he has always been, only worse than ever. D’Angelo Russell, a high lottery pick, possibly the future of the franchise, plays poorly, but isn’t trusted to play late in the game while this season is already known to be a lost cause.
Scott isn’t a good head coach. Not offensively, not defensively (Lakers give up more points per 100 possessions than any other team in the league), and not in terms of helping develop young players. A rookie like Russell, who scored 7 points and had 6 assists but shot 3-of-11 from the field, should get minutes, if the Lakers are counting on him to be their ‘1’ for the next few years. Instead Russell played just 20 minutes, getting benched in the final quarter. If it’s an injury, fine, but it’s probably just the weird logic guiding the Lakers this season.
Russell is going through a rough rookie season, shooting just 34.1% from the field while averaging 8.5 points and 2.8 assists in 24.3 minutes per game. Putting him around so many players who love the ball in their hands isn’t helping, and the ‘toying him around’ part of the equation, a specialty of Scott’s when he’s unhappy with a player, has never proved to be something that helps players get better. The rookie point guard on the other end, Emmanuel Mudiay, finished with 10 assists (and six turnovers) while scoring 12 points. He’s averaging 12.5 points, 6.5 assists and 6.3 turnovers per game while shooting just 30.9% from the field. But he’s playing, 30.8 minutes a night.
Jordan Clarkson isn’t a good example. Byron Scott had no choice but to start letting him play big minutes late last season. No Kobe Bryant, he hates Nick Young and never believed much in Jeremy Lin.That left Clarkson as the only option and, well, the Lakers realized they have a tall guard who can score and is probably worth keeping around for a while. He’s averaging 18.3 points with 55.8% from the field and 46.7% from beyond the arc. He shouldn’t be the only one getting chances. The Lakers have nothing to lose.
There’s still time before there’s a decision on Emmanuel Mudiay. Point guard or not, efficient or not. But the Nuggets, who are in the same place the Lakers are only with a lot less media scrutiny, are giving him the opportunity to prove himself, develop and putting him in tough spots. Mudiay played in the fourth quarter. Russell? He didn’t get a minute. He was having a bad night, but what good does it do to once again see what Kobe Bryant and Lou Williams do? Both of them aren’t going to be around for much longer. Russell was taken so the Lakers find out whether he’s the future or not.
Yes, Russell seems a bit overwhelmed by the experience so far, but the Lakers don’t seem to be too concerned about what this is developing into. Another bad season, but instead of letting their young trio go out and see what they can become, it’s about more Kobe Bryant and another veteran who isn’t a long term solution to anything. Bryant said he was going to step away, and yet he plays the final nine minutes of the fourth quarter, disruptive as ever.