Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott's move of D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle to the bench appears to still be a mystery to the two lottery talents. Scott hasn't spoken with either player about his decision, calling it a "big boys league" they have to show up for one way or the other, reports Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. Kobe Bryant once called for Pau Gasol to put his "big-boy pants" on, but this is a new take on an old classic.
Randle told media following his 15-points, 11-rebound performance off the bench in Toronto that the coaching staff had not spoken to him about the changes since shifting him out of the starting lineup. Scott informed both Julius and D'Angelo they were getting yanked from the front five during a team meeting, not communicating with them individually about why the change was being initiated.
This is another sign of a broken link between head coach and highly-talented prospects in the early days of their development. Something as simple as a discussion about what's happening on the court in the starting lineup and an explanation as to why they were moved to the bench could help them understand where improvements need to be made, but appears to be out of the question. Russell's alluded to a lack of communication in the past as well, in this instance referring to a stretch of games he played limited fourth-quarter minutes:
D’Angelo Russell on playing late in games: "I’ve got to figure out what I’m doing wrong so I can correct it." Byron explain why? "No."— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) November 11, 2015
That seemingly non-existent relationship, along with Scott reiterating he's going to limit both prized talents to 20-25 minutes for the next 5-10 games, is cause for concern. Mitch Kupchak recently said he understands fan frustration is stemming from a lacking focus on player development, and how this benching has been handled flies in the face of that very thing. Russell was aggressive in the second half against Toronto but was pulled as his minutes trickled into his newly alotted playing time, and Randle played even less despite being the most active Laker on the floor most of the night.
All of these things noted, that he hasn't taken the time to discuss what's going on with either player because it's a "big boys" league is the worst part of this. Even if their roles and minutes are carved in stone (for 5-10 games), explaining expectations and creating clear lines of communication could at least turn it into a learning experience. No, the coach doesn't have to explain himself, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't either. Moving to the bench and having their minutes chopped is a huge change for both players 20 games into the season, at a time Russell said he was "starting to figure things out."
But if they can't figure out what their coach wants them to do, how can they do what he wants them to do? How can they get back into the starting lineup? What is their role with the reserves now, especially with the sudden injection of Robert Sacre and ball-handling guard Marcelo Huertas? It's a black hole of questions.