Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott is making his first change to the starting lineup, and it's a drastic move for their young core. Scott informed media that Julius Randle and D'Angelo Russell will play off the bench for the Lakers, making way for Larry Nance, Jr. and Lou Williams, reports Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.
Scott mentioned potential lineup changes in the past and has made the move, shifting both Russell and Randle. He's committed to this change for at least 5-to-10 games, according to Bresnahan, but it comes at a time where both players started to make progress. Randle has pulled down four double-doubles in the last five games, while Russell's looked more comfortable and aggressive on the floor in recent outings. D'Angelo has averaged 13.3 points, five rebounds and 3.5 assists per game through the last four games, picking up his play during the Lakers' eight-game road trip.
There's an argument to be made that pulling Russell and Randle's minutes away from Kobe Bryant's could be beneficial to their development as he soaks possessions, but ultimately these are top-tier talents who are adjusting to their first full season in the NBA. Making matters worse, Scott told reporters that he didn't inform either player of the move in individual meetings, instead telling them during the team's meeting in the morning.
Neither player sounds happy about the change, and Russell's quote about "starting to figure it out and then this happened" is particularly poignant. Here's more on what Scott and the youth had to say about the change:
D'Angelo: "I was starting to figure it out and then this happened....I've never been in the (back-up) position."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) December 7, 2015
Russell :"I’ve never been in [this] position, so I don’t know how it’s going to affect [me]. I didn’t expect it to happen like that."— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) December 7, 2015
Julius was not as talkative as Russell, but admitted he was unhappy w/ change. Randle: "It is what it is."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) December 7, 2015
Julius on demotion: "You're never going to be thrilled about it as a competitor....I don't know, man. It's not my decision."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) December 7, 2015
Byron: "I hope when they get their chance to play they come out w/ a lot more energy & little bit more aggressiveness & play better bball."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) December 7, 2015
Byron Scott: "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."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) December 7, 2015
Clearly neither player was prepared for this kind of "demotion," nor do they sound happy about it. Besides their personal feelings on the matter, that both are being asked to play different roles after acclimating themselves through the first 20-some games of their career with the starting lineup.
Maybe this works, though. Maybe sliding the youth away from the starting lineup with Kobe and giving them the keys to the second unit is a rotational change that makes sense. The way this decision unfolded while both players seemed to be finding some sort of groove in an otherwise rhythm-less season is concerning, though.