Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott received a great deal of criticism after sitting D’Angelo Russell for the entire fourth quarter of the team’s 120-109 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night, their fourth consecutive loss. After the game, Scott explained his decision to sit Russell stemmed simply from the fact that veteran guard Lou Williams was playing well and getting to the free throw line.
“If Lou wasn’t playing well, I would have brought him (Russell) back in. So, it’s more of, with me, who is playing well at that particular time,” Scott said at Wednesday’s practice in response to questions about sitting Russell.
Williams managed to draw three fouls off three-point attempts, getting to the line 19 times, and finishing with 24 points. Scott merely had the lineup on the floor that he felt gave the Lakers the best chance to win, which in last night’s case, meant Russell on the bench.
“Of course,” Scott responded when asked whether the goal is to have Russell finishing games. How? “Cut down the mistakes, continue to run the offense, do a better job on the defensive end, just all the little things.”
Understandably, as a head coach, Scott wants the 19-year-old rookie to earn his minutes, especially at the end of games. For fans and those criticizing Scott’s decisions, they are wondering where the bigger picture fits in, of investing in the young Lakers core, even if that means sitting Williams for Russell in the fourth quarter. So, the question becomes what exactly is the reality of prioritizing young player development over winning games?
“I’m not always thinking about necessarily developing, I’m always thinking about trying to win,” Scott told LakersNation.com. “The developing part, it comes secondary to that, but in practice and everything that’s where you really work on the developing part, and then when they get the opportunity in the games, you just kind of hope it takes it’s toll.”
Scott’s response is what one would expect from a head coach. Unfortunately, as the Lakers stand 0-4 to start the season, it makes understanding the priorities all the more difficult.[divide]