Byron Scott threatens to bench players unless they improve on defensive end

NEW YORK -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott said he wants the team's young players to progress at a faster rate -- or they'll be sitting on the bench.

"I think when you make a mistake over and over again, sometimes that wood has a good way of talking to your butt a little bit, too," Scott said Friday before the Lakers' 104-98 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. "Getting a couple splinters here and there, sometimes that has a great way of communicating how important it is to play on that [defensive] end of the floor."

The Lakers entered Friday's game ranked last in the NBA in defensive efficiency.

Scott was asked whether he was specifically referencing rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, who had been benched in the fourth quarter in two of the team's first four games.

"I'm saying that he has to start getting it, just like the other young guys have to start getting it, and if they don't, they won't play as much," Scott said.

Entering Friday's game, the Lakers were allowing 116.7 points per 100 possessions with Russell on the court this season, compared to 109.2 with Russell off the court, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Does that mean sitting Russell for entire games?

"I don't know about sitting him for games," Scott said. "But I do know that all these guys have to start progressing a little bit faster. Playing time in this league is a very precious thing, and I don't want our guys to take that for granted. So missing assignments on a continuous basis is not going to go unnoticed. You've got to start developing and doing a better job on [the defensive] end of the floor."

Russell and Jordan Clarkson each scored 16 points Friday for the Lakers (1-4), who dropped the Nets to 0-6.

Russell, who played 23 minutes but wasn't on the court for the final minute of a close-scoring game, said he wasn't aware of Scott's comments until a reporter relayed them after the game.

"That's the way it should be," Russell said after a 6-of-9 shooting performance. "I feel like if you're doing the best for the team, that is who should be out there."

Asked about sitting Russell late, Scott said after the game that he preferred veteran guard Lou Williams in that situation.

"I love the fact that [Russell] was able to play three of those last five minutes or whatever it was and gain some of that experience," Scott said.

Russell also said he's learning the concept of making the most of his playing time.

"Yes, for sure," he said. "I definitely want to play well. It's a short opportunity."

After the game, Scott praised Russell's play.

"He was better, there's no doubt about that," Scott said. "Growth-wise, I thought he did a better job of controlling the tempo of the game, getting this into our offense."

Kobe Bryant also praised Russell.

"He helped us tremendously," Bryant said. "I think Byron is going to keep on challenging him and force him to dig deep and push himself."

Scott had conceded before the game that playing time is the best way for young players to learn.

"It's always better to have minutes," Scott said. "You can only learn so much by sitting and watching. Because sooner or later, you've got to be thrown into the fire and you've got to figure it out that way as well, because the game is fast. When you're young, [the game] is a lot faster than you think. The more that you could be out there in the fire and going through it, the better off you're going to be in the long run."

Scott first spoke about potentially limiting young players' minutes following the team's morning shootaround.

"So, it's going to take those guys some time," Scott said. "I just got to continue to be patient. But as I told them, I'm not going to be patient for long. I expect guys to get it, what we're doing on both ends of the floor, in a relatively quick manner."

Before Friday's game, Scott added, "It wasn't an idle threat about telling guys that I'm just going to find guys who can do it and play guys off the bench if I see the same mistakes over and over. We'll just see how it goes."

Scott also emphasized his priorities this season.

"The first object is to win the game," he said. "That's the bottom line. You want to try to win basketball games. And in the process, you want to help develop young players; it really is that simple."