Lakers limit D'Angelo Russell's PT for his own good, coach says

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- In response to recent criticism from Los Angeles Clippers television broadcasters, Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott defended his conservative approach with rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell's playing time this season, saying he is trying to help "protect" Russell from making too many mistakes.

Scott made his comments Monday after practice at the Lakers' facility when specifically asked about remarks made by Clippers analyst Don MacLean in the third quarter of the Lakers' 105-93 loss to the Clippers on Friday at Staples Center.

In Friday's game, MacLean, who starred at UCLA and played nine seasons in the NBA, said, "I really wish Byron Scott would just give D'Angelo Russell the keys [the offense] and say, 'You know what? Go for it, man.'"

Fellow Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler agreed, saying, "I cannot understand any reason not to [do that]. ... What's going to happen? You're going to lose?"

Lawler and MacLean alluded to the Lakers, in fact, needing to lose as many games as possible this season in order to give themselves a strong chance at keeping their 2016 top-three-protected first-round pick, which falls to the 76ers if it falls outside the first three slots.

MacLean later said Russell "might be the best passer I've ever seen, and I think he's still playing tentative because he's looking over his shoulder. He's coming off the bench. And if Byron Scott would just say, 'You know what, D'Angelo? I don't care if you turn it over 15 times tonight, you're going to play 35 minutes. Go for it, and go for it,' [Russell] will figure it out. He really will."

Russell, the 2015 No. 2 overall draft pick, is averaging 11.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 26.9 minutes per game and is coming off the bench for the Lakers after having started the team's first 20 games.

A former Ohio State standout, he has spent several fourth quarters on the bench this season and was recently benched late in a game for, as Scott said, "trying to take over" a game.

When asked about MacLean's remarks, Scott responded, "Well, first of all to Don, that's why you not coaching. Let's put it that way."

Then, speaking of Russell, Scott said, "You don't let a guy go out there and just almost embarrass himself or kill himself by playing 35 minutes and creating 10, 12, 15 turnovers. I mean, the one thing it can do is self-destruct him as an individual."

Russell is averaging 2.5 turnovers per game and had five in the Lakers' loss Sunday to Charlotte.

"So what I try to do as far as teaching him and also protect him from making mistakes like that, and from getting ridiculed after a game like that," Scott said. "My job is to help these guys develop, and that's what I'm going to continue to do. Sometimes it's going to be 20 minutes, sometimes it's going to be 25, sometimes it's going to be 30. It's whatever I see fit to try to get him to understand how to play the game of basketball on both ends of the floor.

"It's not all about turnovers at times, it's about him on the other end of the floor as well. It's about him making decisions that are right for himself and the team. And in the long run, getting him to understand what this game is really all about.

"That's what I was taught a long time ago. You just give them a little bit at first. To give it all to them and try to take it back is much harder. Give them a little bit, and then give them a little bit more, give them a little bit more is a lot easier."

Scott said he even considered not starting Russell at the beginning of the season.

"But I figured also, either way I'm going to be able to take him out if I have to, either out of the starting lineup or put him in the starting lineup," Scott said.

"I got to about the end of the day before the night of the first game before I made up my mind to start him, him and [Jordan Clarkson], see how this combination works. They played together in the Summer League. Maybe they'll have some type of cohesiveness that will really help them on the basketball court. After I saw for a while that it wasn't working, and other thing -- and I think I told you guys this before, too -- when I took him out of the starting lineup it was more of not that he wasn't playing great, it was more to let him know, 'You still haven't earned this. You still have to fight for this.'"

Scott then referenced Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who came off the bench early in his career before becoming a starter.

"Nothing's given. Prime example's Kobe," Scott said. "I didn't want [Russell] to just feel, 'This is who I am. I should be starting on the Lakers because I'm the second pick.' No, you're starting because you work hard and you earn it."

The Lakers are 9-41 and have lost 10 straight games, tying for the longest losing streak in franchise history. The 1993-94 Lakers also lost 10 consecutive games. The Lakers face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday at Staples Center.