Lakers Nation Roundtable: Benching D’Angelo Russell In Fourth Hurting Him?
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA regular season is finally underway for the Los Angeles Lakers. Unfortunately, things haven’t gone quite the Lakers way as the team has gotten off to an 0-2 start so far.

While the team was routed by the Sacramento Kings on Friday, the season opener with the Minnesota Timberwolves went down to the wire. Aside from the Lakers blowing a double-digit lead, arguably the biggest story coming out of the game was second overall pick D’Angelo Russell not seeing the floor in the fourth quarter.

Head coach Byron Scott went with Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams down the stretch on Opening Night and that did not sit well with many fans. Russell is viewed as the future of the franchise and as such, fans expect to see him on the floor growing in front of their eyes.

So we asked out panel of experts if they believe Byron Scott is hurting Russell’s development by benching him in the fourth quarter. This is what they had to say:

Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane): At this extremely early point in the season, no I don’t think that Byron Scott is hurting Russell’s development by benching him in the 4th quarter.

With the season fresh and optimism plentiful, Byron has to try to win as much as he can. If that means going with the veterans down the stretch then so be it. For the time being the Lakers are in the playoff hunt, and until that ceases to be the case crunch time minutes need to go to whoever is getting it done on the court.

The NBA season is long and there will be plenty of opportunities for Russell to get experience with the game on the line. Right now he is still learning the NBA game and adjusting to the pace, and throwing too much at him too soon could actually be detrimental to his development.

Of course Lakers fans want to see Russell make big plays and burst onto the scene as a star (especially with his rookie contemporaries playing well), but patience is key here. Byron takes a lot of flak, but he does have a track record of developing young guards and deserves some trust from the Lakers faithful.

The Lakers are going to do everything in their power to get the most out of their prized number two pick, but it’s not going to happen overnight. Byron is giving him plenty of minutes, and when Russell struggled playing off the ball against the Wolves he was switched onto the ball for the next game. When he is ready to close games, he will.

Jabari Davis (@JabariDavisNBA): I don’t know that we can necessarily make that judgement just one game into Russell’s rookie campaign, but I will acknowledge it is a trend I would prefer not to see moving forward.

While patience with his development will definitely be key this season, there’s absolutely no reason for him to sit for the entire 4th quarter of any game, let alone one that offered plenty of lessons. Were the opposing guards -Ricky Rubio in particular- having their way(s) with the Lakers? Clearly. That said, unless you genuinely believe the season should be about wins and losses (here’s a hint: it shouldn’t be), what’s the harm in continuing to see what adjustments the rookie can make under pressure and in crunch time?

It’s a fair assessment to say the organization was guilty of playing for the “here-and-now” for several seasons while understandably attempting to capitalize on the final years of Kobe Bryant’s career. At this point, having seemingly embraced the recent youth movement, it will be important to remember to place the future of the organization above having a chance at a random victory in late-October.

Yes, much easier for me to say than it is for the coaching staff to completely adopt given the desire to be successful; but that’s still precisely what is needed. I don’t buy into the notion of it “ruining D’Angelo’s confidence” as the 19-year-old still appears to be even keel about the process, but I do think playing in moments like the end of opener could potentially accelerate that learning curve whether he were to fail or succeed.

Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): Maybe it’s because I saw this exact scenario happening a long time ago, but I really don’t have a problem with this happening and I expect it to continue until Russell shows that he should be on the floor over the likes of Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams.

It’s early in the season and the Lakers are trying to win. Yes, development of the young core is of the utmost importance, but the organization is also trying to get back to their winning ways and Russell is admittedly not quite ready just yet. As such, if the Lakers have a chance to win the game, Russell on the bench might be better for the team at times.

Now if the Lakers fall out of playoff contention (as is expected) as the season goes on then Russell and the rest of the young guns should be on the floor as much as possible. Right now, however, the Lakers should be trying to win because showing progress as far as wins on the floor is extremely important for the future as well, especially when it comes to free agency.

I understand that fans are looking to see Russell dominate games immediately, and the early showings from Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor aren’t helping matters. But early struggles don’t mean Russell won’t be a future star, and sitting on the bench down the stretch early in the season won’t stunt his development.

Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): Since the Lakers are going to be horrible this year, they should give their young guys as many meaningful minutes as possible.

Byron Scott should absolutely play Russell in crunch time to see how the rookie responds. But sometimes the right move is to bench the kid if he makes some really bone-headed plays so that he can learn from his mistakes. Russell can’t be given the green light at all times.

That being said, I’d like to see Russell get at least 30-35 minutes per game of playing time so that he can develop. Lakers fans will need to be patient with this roster because they won’t suddenly become good overnight. Scott will need to be patient as well and let the Russell play critical minutes so that he can gain valuable experience.

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