Don’t ask Byron Scott about Jahlil Okafor or anyone else the Lakers passed up when they drafted D’Angelo Russell.
Scott doesn’t want to hear about the 26 points Okafor scored in his NBA debut.
The solid games put together so far by Kristaps Porzingis? Whatever.
To Scott, Emmanuel Mudiay is simply the other point guard drafted in the top 10 a few months ago.
The Lakers coach is concerned about only one highly touted player, the one taken second overall by the Lakers. He doesn’t think about the others.
“Why should I?” Scott said Friday, adding he hoped they have great careers and everything, but, “Why should I care about what they do? I care about what our guy does and what our team does. I don’t look at Philly, I don’t look at Minnesota, I don’t look at other teams. It’s not my concern.”
It’s safe to say Russell has been slower than the above players to adapt to the NBA level. It’s also safe to say he’s played only two games, underscoring Scott’s unstated point that Lakers fans need to be patient.
Just wondering, though, how long is Russell’s learning curve? He had 13 points on five-for-10 shooting and two assists in the Lakers’ 132-114 loss Friday to the Sacramento Kings.
“I think everybody’s different,” Scott said. “You’ve got some rookies, it takes them 10 games to really understand what’s going on out there. Some of them, it takes a year, some of them it takes half a year, some of them take two years.”
In other words, nobody knows. And Russell is only 19.
Russell is hoping for the best, understandably.
“The game in college was the same thing. I struggled the first few games, started to figure it out,” he said.
While on the topic of drafting Russell, Scott recapped the Lakers’ thinking when they chose him over Okafor (third overall), Porzingis (fourth) and Mudiay (seventh).
The draft was June 25 and the Lakers thought they could sign a big man with immediate impact a week later in free agency.
So they went with Russell’s flash and dash at Ohio State over Okafor’s impressive post game at Duke.
“Obviously, you guys know that LaMarcus [Aldridge] was one of our targets,” Scott said. “If we didn’t get him, we still had a number of big guys that we could go after that we felt that we could get, so it made it that much easier in the draft to go after a point guard and D’Angelo was that guy.”
Aldridge signed with San Antonio after eliminating the Lakers primarily because their presentation lacked in-depth analytics. Free-agent meetings with centers Greg Monroe and DeAndre Jordan also went nowhere for the Lakers.
The market for point guards was slender: Goran Dragic, who quickly re-signed with Miami, and Rajon Rondo, who went from Boston to Sacramento.
“It was a lot thinner at that position than it was at the big-man position,” Scott said.
A fairly important Lakers veteran had some advice for Russell. Kobe Bryant, after all, averaged only 7.6 points and shot only 41% as a rookie.
“Keep playing, keep studying the game,” Bryant said recently. “I wish it was something more elaborate but it’s really that simple. You watch it, you see what they’re giving you and see opportunities to take advantage of.”