D'Angelo Russell sat on the bench as the Los Angeles Lakers ended their 34-point blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors, the same place he observed the entire fourth quarter. For the fifth time in 14 games, the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft did not play a second in the final period of a Lakers game. Although the Warriors held an insurmountable 89-55 lead entering the fourth, most observers would agree that Russell could learn more from playing against actual NBA players than from watching garbage time.
Byron Scott is not one of those people. After the game, Scott said "there was really no reason" to have played Russell in the fourth quarter and when asked directly if those reps could help Russell develop he replied "Nah."
When speaking to reporters after the Lakers' final practice before a day off on Thanksgiving, the Lakers head coach doubled down on his decision to sit Russell down the stretch:
Byron said he sat Russell in 4th Q. Argued he could've gotten hurt had he kept playing + argued he can learn on bench— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) November 25, 2015
Byron stood by decision to sit D'Angelo in the 4th, said he'd rather have him learn by watching, also mentioned possibility of injury— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) November 25, 2015
After the game on Thursday night, Russell disagreed with his coach's decision, telling Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News that he thought "any reps could help his development." The highly touted rookie walked that statement back a little bit on Wednesday:
D'Angelo softened his stance a bit on value getting PT even in blowouts. He now says he can learn by playing & watching— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) November 25, 2015
Russell and Scott may be right that he can learn something by watching. It is still hard not to think it would be more beneficial for Russell to play in live action rather than sit and observe.