D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle will come off the bench for the foreseeable future, Lakers Coach Byron Scott said Monday, a surprising development 20 games into the season.
The two players represent a big part of the Lakers’ long-term plans. They will be replaced by veteran Lou Williams and rookie Larry Nance Jr.
Scott said he wanted better energy and better starts in the first quarter from the team.
“This change wasn’t so much based on them not performing up to their capability. It’s based on where we are as a team. We’re 3-17, so obviously it’s not working. So I wanted to get some new blood in there, some fresh blood, and see how those guys play.”
“I have no idea [why]. I’m just going along with it,” said Russell, the No. 2 overall selection in this year’s draft. “I finally was starting to figure it out and then this happened. . . . I’ve never been in the [backup] position so I don’t know how it’s going to affect myself. I didn’t expect it to happen like that, so if I was the problem, or if I was the change that needed to happen to better the team, then I guess it was worth it.”
Randle answered the first two questions from reporters with “It is what it is.” Then he opened up, but only a bit.
“You’re never going to be thrilled about it as a competitor but it’s not in our control. Our control is to go out there and play hard, like we’ve been doing, and just keep getting better,” said Randle, who was drafted seventh overall in 2014.
Later he said of the reasoning behind the demotion, “I don’t know, man. It’s not my decision so I don’t know.”
Russell, 19, started painfully slowly but has been better in recent games. He said he hadn’t come off the bench since his sophomore year in high school.
“Everybody has a story at the end of the day, as far as what they’ve been through to get to where they want to be. Hopefully I can look back at this and laugh at it,” he said.
Russell is averaging 11 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
Scott said he wanted the players to channel any frustration with the demotion into positive play on the court.
“They didn’t say anything to me about it, but I don’t think they were happy about it. And I hope they’re not,” Scott said. “I hope that when they get their chance to play, that they come out with a lot more energy and a little bit more aggressiveness and just play better basketball.”
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