Up through Tuesday’s practice, Byron Scott was noncommittal on D’Angelo Russell starting in the Lakers’ season opener. He didn’t give reasons, but expressed he’d yet to make up his mind on the matter. I, for one, didn’t really believe that with it the day before the game, having seen Russell for an entire summer league and training camp, and knowing how the rest of the roster fit together.
But that was Byron’s story and he was sticking to it. Fine, no problem. We would get final word today, the day of the game, and that would be that. Well, guess what? D’Angelo Russell is starting.
D'Angelo Russell will start tonight against Minnesota along with Jordan Clarkson, Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle and Roy Hibbert
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 28, 2015
Per the OC Register’s Bill Oram, Scott really did make up his mind this morning on whether this year’s #2 overall pick would run with the first team:
But on Wednesday morning, the Lakers coach woke up at 4:30 a.m. thinking about his team’s opener in 15 hours against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He did bikram yoga at 6:30 to settle his mind.
At the top of his list of decisions, was whether No. 2 overall draft choice D’Angelo Russell should start in his NBA debut.
“That’s probably what woke me up,” Scott said following the Lakers’ morning shoot around, “because I woke up and I had D.R. on my mind and the team on my mind.”
In reality, player slotting and skill sets of the guys should have made this decision fairly simple — especially f the alternative to starting Russell was inserting Marcelo Huertas with the starters.
Huertas has proven to be a dynamic passer and a very good quarterback for the team’s offense. But the most unreliable part of his game right now is his outside shooting. When playing with a unit of Clarkson, Kobe, and Randle floor spacing is imperative. Russell hasn’t been knocking down his outside shot with consistency (29% in the preseason), but as a spot up option he’s much preferable to Huertas.
Further, as Scott himself acknowledged, Huertas’ fit with the 2nd unit works well. His pass first (and second) mentality blends well with score happy wings like Lou Williams and Nick Young as well as big men who need shots created for them like Brandon Bass, Ryan Kelly, and Tarik Black.
Just because Russell is starting, though, doesn’t mean he’ll be the “lead” guard.
Byron wants Jordan Clarkson to handle the ball more often than Russell tonight. Thus, my earlier tweet that Russell will be more SG than PG
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) October 28, 2015
We’ll see how this plays out on the court, but my guess is that the last few preseason games provide a blueprint for what this will look like. In those games Clarkson brought the ball up more than Russell and initiated the offense much more frequently. Russell did get his chances to set the action, but mostly just ran the Lakers “elbow” or “chin” series actions where he entered the ball to one of the wings or into a big man and then cut off the ball to the weak side.
In any event, Russell will be on the floor when the game starts. We’ll see if he remains should the game be close at the end.
david h says
Darius: spot on as always.
Time for Randle to shine.
Well, I can understand trying to go it slow a bit and give Clarkson the rock more. But I hope that this changes after a few games. The only thing I’ve seen for Russel that has me even a tiny bit excited about him is his passing and court vision. Clarkson has Hoop-vision for the most part, sure he can dribble it up the court but he’s a scoring guard.
Defensively that 1st unit is going to get destroyed something fierce and the Timberwolves have some uber-athletes in their 1st unit. The defensive side of the court is going to be rough, I hope Hibbert doesn’t mind an endless array of guys running past the defenders to dunk around him/or on him.
Laaaaaaaaaaaakeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrssssssssssssssssss, come out to play! Laaaaaaaaaaaakeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrssssssssssssssssss, come out to play!
Laaaaaaaaaaaakeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrssssssssssssssssss, come out to playayaya!
Guess what? I hope the Timberwolves are ready to be scored on by the Lakers an awful lot tonight, because the Lakers can put up points with the best of them and the Timberwolves’ defense is nothing special to write about either. Just saying.
Lets all Gro with D….Angelo
Clay Bertrand says
I am with Tankyou on Russell. For all the talk of his versatility and ability to PLAY OFF THE BALL, I haven’t seen ONE INSTANCE of it in Summer League OR the Preseason. He doesn’t use screens effectively, doesn’t move with purpose and ends up shooting (and missing) too much because every other part of his game involves HAVING THE BALL so when he does get it, he figures he might as well shoot.
Russell simply DOES NOT (yet) play effectively OFF the ball. It seems like he LOSES 75% of the game he DOES have when he plays off the ball. He always looks like a PG who gave the the ball up and is expecting it back only to RARELY get it once he’s passed it during an offensive possession. He’s not making hard cuts or working his man to get open when he’s off the ball.
It seems to me that the easiest way to get him feeling comfortable and “involved” in the Crappy Princeton offense that he openly admits he doesn’t grasp, would be to have him bring the ball up the court at least and initiate the offense. It’s not brain surgery. Its dribbling up court usually against minimal or no defensive pressure, and making the first pass.
Do I fault Byron for this?? Uhhh yes. Because HES THE ONE HAVING RUSSELL PLAY OFF THE BALL. This is a COACHING decision and I think its a bad one. I hope I’m very wrong.
If not hey, maybe Huertas can jump center for the Tip Off……..
The Dane says
I feel just like youn Darius. Last years team was just no fun to watch, where as this group has a lot of interesting things to watch for.
I hope the Timberwolves are ready to be scored on by the Lakers an awful lot tonight, because the Lakers can put up points with the best of them…
Not counting the Maccabi exhibition, the Lakers scored an average of 96 points per game this NBA preseason and gave up 103.
I would have preferred Brown start at 3,and Kobe 2,for defensive reasons,and as a 3pt option. Russell as PG on the 2nd unit. Brown started slow, but seemed to come on against GS. Willing to be proved wrong,but I think Scott will come back to the Randle-Brown front line with Kobe back to SG.
Byron’s decision to have Clarkson initiate the offense (at least in the first few games) rather than Russell may actually be an inspired move. This will take a lot of the pressure off D’Angelo and allow him to work his way into the starting unit without having the weight of running an NBA offense on his 19-year old shoulders.
Even so, Russell does have a PG’s mind set. So I would not be surprised to see Clarkson and Russell — to a degree — share the PG duties, perhaps 70% Clarkson, 30% Russell. This could be an effective way of transitioning Russell into a regular decision-making role later in the season.
Let’s see if this works. But this could actually be a good idea.
I guess that’s that, while i have my opinion about Russell starting right now, I sincerely hope he can contribute right away, he have the skill set. Im even more exited about Randle GO LAKERS!!!!
So ready for a fresh start.
Let’s Go, defense!!! Defense! Defense! Defense!
Andres Garcia says
The decision to take the ball away from DAR only makes sense if they are showcasing JC. Which I’m not I love with because I really like the kid.
Clay Bertrand says
I do suppose it could be a good move to alleviate early pressure on D’Angelo to have Clarkson perform more LEAD GUARD duties to start the year.
My worry is that they have CONSTANTLY preached this “INTERCHANGEABLE” concept regarding Clarkson and Russell and that they will try to use this approach at the expense of nurturing Russell’s natural point guard instincts. I didn’t think Russell looked comfortable as a 2 when Clarkson played the Lead Guard role against the Ws the other night.
While I do think each guy is potentially versatile, I think Clarkson is 35% PG MAX and 65-75% Shooting/Scoring Guard while I think that Russell is the complete reverse/opposite of these loose hypothetical percentages.
As much as I embrace the concept of “positionless basketball” (especially for Defensive switches/rotations) the PG position is a special one (even in the new modern NBA with many score-first PGs) and one that I think needs to stay at least a bit more traditional by having someone specialize in being a PG.
I lament the fact that Steve Nash could be coaching up Russell this very second and telling him “don’t ever give up your dribble!!!!” but alas, he is teaching STEPH CURRY HOW TO BE BETTER. Yikes!!
I’m watching the Boston–Philly now to give Okafor a look.
CAN’T WAIT FOR TIP OFF AND I AINT WATCHIN MY BOYS ON TNT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
GOTTA HEAR STU and his signature, “NAAAAAWWWYYYCE….”