TORONTO -- While D’Angelo Russell was disappointed about being taken out of the starting lineup Monday after having started every game this season, the promising young Los Angeles Lakers guard was able to find some positives.
“You’ve got to be more aggressive," Russell said of playing on the second unit after the Lakers’ 102-93 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre.
Part of the reason why Russell, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2015, was able to play more aggressively, both he and Lakers coach Byron Scott said, was the fact that Russell wasn’t on the court with Lakers star Kobe Bryant nearly as much as before.
“There’s just more ball movement,” said Russell, who finished with 9 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 21 minutes off the bench. “No disrespect to Kobe, but you just know you have more opportunity because he’s who he is.”
Scott admitted that Russell and Julius Randle not playing alongside Bryant meant they didn’t “defer as much” to Bryant, a volume shooter.
“When KB is out there, they seem to defer a little bit more to him,” Scott said. “I thought tonight they played a little bit more free. They still made mistakes, but they’re going to make mistakes. They’re young. But I want them to continue to play as hard as they played tonight.”
Randle finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench. He said he didn’t notice any difference playing with Bryant or not.
Bryant finished with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, his first game this season in which he has shot 50 percent from the field.
Russell also played more shooting guard than point guard, a change from previous games.
"It was cool," Russell said. "You’re used to it, but you try to develop into being a point guard in this league -- or I am -- so playing off the ball is just something I had to get used to. So if that’s what coach wants, I’ll do it."