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D’Angelo Russell says he has better understanding of role with Lakers

D’Angelo Russell and Byron Scott

Lakers Coach Byron Scott talks to guard D’Angelo Russell during the first half of a preseason game on Oct. 11.

(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

The Lakers open the season Wednesday night at Staples Center against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Will Coach Byron Scott start the second overall pick in June’s NBA draft, D’Angelo Russell, or will he bring the guard off the bench?

“I don’t know that yet,” said Scott after the team’s practice Monday.  “I’m still mulling it over.”

Scott confirmed the team will open the season with Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle, Roy Hibbert and Jordan Clarkson in the lineup.

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“I don’t know if Clarkson is going to start at the one or at the two,” said Scott, who might use rookie Anthony Brown, the 34th overall pick, as the team’s fifth starter at small forward.

If Russell starts at the point, Bryant would move to small forward to begin his 20th NBA season, with Clarkson at shooting guard.

What is Scott’s hesitation on committing to the 19-year-old Russell?

“He’s still very young.  Very talented [but] he’s still getting a grasp of everything that’s going on,” Scott said.  “We had a nice little sit-down talk yesterday.  As he told you guys I think one time, that he doesn’t know his role -- he knows it pretty clearly right now.”

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Russell recently expressed confusion, as Scott experimented with him both coming off the bench and in the starting group.

“I don’t know man. I really don’t,” Russell said of his role last week. “I have no clue at all.  Coach is going to do what’s best for the team.  And if that’s what he sees is me coming off the bench, then it’s best for the team.”

Scott urged the media to ask Russell to describe his role Monday, now that the two have had time to talk.

What did Russell get out of the conversation?

“Just really focus on playing hard, all the time, defense [and] rebound,” Russell said. “I told him I thought my role was to facilitate, be a playmaker.

“He said, ‘That’s what you do naturally, so I’m not going to label you with that.’ He was just saying if I do all those other things, that it’d be easier - playmaking and decision-making, that stuff would come easier.”

Does he expect to start Wednesday?

“I have no idea,” said Russell, who said he wants to be on the floor “when it really matters.”

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Russell also acknowledged he has to earn that spot.

“At this level, you need to make do with whatever minutes you get, starting with practice,” he said.

With the decision outside of his control, Russell said will just work to adopt what he believes Scott wants for him as a “defensive, playmaking, energy-type guy.”

“Once you know your role, it makes everything easy.  I would say him telling me that, [assistant] coaches kind of preaching it, everybody knowing their role puts everybody on the same page,” Russell said.

Scott noted his talk with Russell wasn’t unique, but one of 15 he’ll conduct before Tuesday.

“I’ve done that with everybody on this team except for four players so far, and I’ll do that today,” said Scott.  “My first thing is always to ask them what they think their role should be, then I’m going to tell them what I think it should be.

“The veteran guys are pretty smart, they’ve been pretty much right on target -- and the little guys have been a little different -- by the end of the day, everybody on this team will understand what their role is.”

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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