The Kobe Bryant goodbye tour isn’t the only thing winding down.
D’Angelo Russell has a little more than two months to go on the first lap of his pro career.
He had a 27-point game in Sacramento and an almost scoreless one against Chicago, leading to an overall acknowledgment from Lakers Coach Byron Scott that Russell is slightly behind where Scott hoped he’d be at this point.
“I probably thought he’d be a little further,” Scott said Saturday before the Lakers played the San Antonio Spurs. “But . . . 19 years old. I always take that into consideration. Every time I try to chastise him about something or get mad at him about something, I always go right back to, ‘You know what? Coach, he’s 19. He’s still a kid, he’s still learning, he’s still trying to figure out what this league is all about.’”
The second overall draft pick can improve in key areas. He was averaging 12.1 points but shooting only 41.7% before Saturday’s game. His assist-to-turnover ratio needs to perk up as well — 3.3 assists and 2.4 turnovers per game.
"[He’s] just kind of figuring that out. I still see him progressing but I was hoping that he’d just be a tad further along,” Scott said. “Defensively, I was hoping he’d be a tad further along on the ball as well as off the ball. But those are things I look back from training camp until now — he’s gotten so much better in a lot of those areas. He knows and I know he still has a long way to go in those areas as well.”
Russell will probably rejoin the starting lineup at some point after the All-Star break, but he and Scott aren’t having daily talks about it.
“No. He’s not old enough for me to have a meeting with him to discuss ‘What does he think?’” Scott said.
“He’s such a kid. I told him the other day, ‘You’re 19 but sometimes I think you’re 14.’ And then sometimes I say, ‘You’re 19 but sometimes like today, you’re 22, 23.’ We have a real playful relationship because he’s such a playful kid. At practice he has fun until we say, ‘All right, let’s get serious because it’s practice.’ Shoot-around is the same thing. But you can’t help but just smile and like the kid.”
As if scripted, Russell hit a bunch of three-pointers in a row during the Lakers’ Saturday morning shoot-around. He yelled out to Scott while the coach talked to reporters near midcourt. He just wanted Scott to notice.
Scott’s reply, with a smile: Make them in games.
Scott noticed when Russell recently downgraded his own play. It came after a bad game against the Bulls — three points on one-for-seven shooting, followed by the proclamation that he didn’t deserve to get his starting job back.
“I said, ‘OK, that’s kind of self-policing yourself,’” Scott said. “I thought it was kind of good that he felt that way.”
Interestingly, Scott said Russell would have struggled as a teenager on the “Showtime” teams. Then again, Scott admitted he personally would have needed an adjustment period too.
“The team I came in on, they’d have ate him up at 19 years old. I couldn’t have handled this at 19. I know that for sure,” Scott said. “I was glad when I came in when I was 21 years old and had a few years of college under my belt.”
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