TORONTO -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott announced a dramatic change to the starting lineup before Monday's game against the Toronto Raptors: He moved forward Julius Randle and guard D'Angelo Russell, the team's prized lottery picks in the past two drafts, to the bench for the first time this season.
Randle was the No. 7 overall draft pick in 2014 and Russell the No. 2 overall pick in 2015. Both are considered cornerstones of the Lakers' future. In their place, the Lakers started guard Louis Williams and rookie forward Larry Nance Jr. in L.A.'s 102-93 loss in Toronto.
"Look, [Russell and Randle] are young. They still have a long way to go. They've got a lot of work to do," Scott said before the game. "This change wasn't so much based on them not performing up to their capability. It's based on where we are as a team. That's why I made this adjustment tonight.
"We're 3-17, so obviously, it's not working. So I wanted to get some new blood in there, some fresh blood, and see how those guys play. Five to 10 games from now, there might be another change. We might go back to what we did last year with different rotations. I've got to find five pieces at a time that can work and that can work well together. That wasn't working so far as the first unit."
Scott said he didn't tell the players individually but did so in a team meeting.
"I don't think they were happy about it," Scott said. "They didn't say anything to me, but I don't think they were happy about it. And I hope they're not. I hope when they get the chance to play, they come out with a lot more energy and a little bit more aggressiveness and just play better basketball."
Randle, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds in 21 minutes on Monday, came off the bench in his first game last season and played 14 minutes before suffering a season-ending leg injury. The former Kentucky standout said this was the first time he can remember being moved to the bench in a non-preseason game in his life.
"You're never going to be thrilled about it as a competitor," said Randle, who was averaging 11.7 points and a team-high 9.2 rebounds in 28.4 minutes this season prior to Monday. "It's out of our control."
Randle said he wasn't given any real explanation. When asked whether he believed the change was because of how he has performed, Randle said, "I don't know, man. It's not my decision, so I don't know."
Russell, the former Ohio State standout who struggled to a nine-point finish on 4-for-12 shooting in Toronto, was averaging 11 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game over 27.8 minutes this season entering the night. He said he was surprised by the move.
"I feel like I was starting to figure it out, then this happened," Russell said. "But I don't feel like it's something that's going to get in the way of my growth. But it is what it is. I can't do anything about it."
Russell was averaging double digits in each of his previous four games and recorded his first double-double Friday (16 points, 10 rebounds) in a loss at Atlanta.
"I've never been in [this] position, so I don't know how it's going to affect [me]," Russell said of being benched. "I didn't expect it to happen like that. If I was the problem or I was the change that needed to happen to better the team, I guess it was worth it."
Given that Russell was drafted so high yet has spent considerable time on the bench this season, especially in the fourth quarter, he was asked if he wonders if the Lakers have faith in him as a long-term piece for their future.
"Every once in a while, but not really," Russell said. "Everybody has a story at the end of the day, as far as what they've been through to get to where they want to be or where they're at at that point. Hopefully, I can look back at this and laugh."
Russell said the most recent time he came off the bench was during his sophomore year in high school.
"There were a lot of guys that were older than me, and I was just learning," Russell said. "I'm actually grateful for it because it made me a better player and a better person. When adversity sets in, your character is tested, and I knew who I was when I looked in the mirror that I was still the same person if I was coming off the bench or if I was starting. It didn't really matter. I just tried to be a playmaker and a game-changer at the same time."
He said he has a similar outlook now.
"This is adversity. I could easily give you [media members] yes and no answers and tell you what you want to hear and keep it moving, but I don't think that will get anywhere," Russell said. "So I just tell the truth. I just make the best out of it."