The Los Angeles Lakers were in good spirits at practice on Wednesday before heading on the road to New Orleans, after snapping their losing streak in a four-point win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Of course, Kobe Bryant was the story of the game, with his 38 points and seven three-pointers, but head coach Byron Scott was quite impressed with his younger players.
“I thought D’Angelo (Russell) played a real good solid basketball game last night on both ends of the floor. This is another young man that is starting to come along and understand his role on a night to night basis for us,” Scott said Wednesday.
Scott reiterated that Russell, who finished with 18 points off the bench last night, will be back in the starting lineup at some point this season, and once he’s back in that role, he’ll likely be finishing the majority of games as well.
Scott’s also been having several conversations with sophomore guard Julius Randle on specific areas he can focus on improving game by game. Scott said he spoke with Randle both before and after last night’s game and he could tell Randle took what he said to heart.
“I think his (Julius Randle) progression has come along nicely. We had a good little talk yesterday about some of the things that I want him to continue to get better at and he takes those things to heart.”
Randle returned to the starting lineup nine games ago, due to Larry Nance Jr.’s knee soreness and is averaging 13.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, including six double-doubles in that span.
Last night, Bryant pointed out the younger players’ tendency to allow their attention to detail to slip away, which almost cost them the game last night, after giving up their 16-point lead over the Timberwolves. Scott said he’s been noticing that all season.
“It’s hard to keep 19 and 20 and 21 year olds focused for 48 minutes of a basketball game. That’s the challenge,” Scott said on Wednesday. “Myself, when I came in, I had Magic (Johnson), Coop (Michael Cooper), James (Worthy), Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), those guys who won championships and they wouldn’t let me kind of veer off and I was a little bit older as well.”
This year, Bryant’s around to provide a bit of a wake-up call to the young players when they get off track. But, what about next year?
“I don’t worry about it now,” Scott said. “We’ve got a long time before next year comes. I do kind of look at these guys and think who is going to take over that leadership role, but as of right now we’ve still got No. 24 here and we’ve still got Lou (Williams).”
Speaking of Williams, Clarkson revealed that in addition to Allen Iverson and Bryant, Williams was also one of this favorite players growing up.
“It’s crazy him (Lou Williams) being my teammate,” Clarkson smiled. “I always tell him that he was one of my favorite players growing up too! He’s just solid. He can score at all three levels, get to the rim, make threes, do a little bit of everything.”
Starting with the Pelicans on Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers have four games on the road before getting some time off for the NBA All-Star break.