D'Angelo Russell played arguably his best game of the season against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night, scoring 27 points, dishing 4 assists, and grabbing 2 steals as well. Afterwards, the confident rookie promised fans "y'all ain't seen nothing yet." Those excited by Russell's proclamation will now have to wait just a little bit longer to see what the Los Angeles Lakers' point guard meant, as Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News reports Lakers trainer Gary Vitti told Lakers head coach Byron Scott that Russell will miss the team's Sunday night game against the Utah Jazz as he continues to let the ankle heal.
Russell gamely tried to test his ankle in the Lakers' match-up with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, but was unable to move well enough for the training staff to allow him to continue playing. Even if he had continued to play without sustaining an injury, Scott told Medina that Russell would have continued to come off the bench for now, and that the coach will reevaluate his lineups in "five-game increments."
Scott did allow that more impressive performances from Russell would make it difficult to keep him on the bench. "If he keeps playing like [he did against Sacramento], there will be a time [when he will start]," the coach said on Sunday.
The Lakers are 5-13 since Scott moved Russell and Randle to the bench, compared to 3-17 before the move, an increase in winning percentage from 17.6% to 38.5%. The Lakers' offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) has risen from 96.3 to 99.3 since the change, but their defensive rating has gotten worse, falling from 106.9 to 109.2. This trade-off has led to an only marginal improvement in net rating since Scott benched Russell and Julius Randle in favor of Larry Nance, Jr. and Lou Williams, from -10.5 to -9.9.
A team sitting at 8-30 will probably take any improvement it can get however, so Scott will stick with this lineup for at least five more games, but likely a little longer depending on how long it takes Russell to return to the court and round back into form after his ankle heals.
All stats per NBA.com