Los Angeles Lakers rookie D'Angelo Russell faced a lot of pressure headed in to the season as the Lakers' highest draft pick since selecting James Worthy second overall in 1982. The first-year point guard has had ups and downs over the first 53 games of his NBA career, but has mostly been fine when taking into consideration how bad his team is.
Russell has shot 41.7% from the floor, and is one of only two 19-year olds in NBA history to average 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per-36 minutes (the other is LeBron James). Despite that lofty company, Lakers head coach Byron Scott is not satisfied, and much like Kobe Bryant asks of Kanye West in his legendary Kobe System commercials, evidently wants "more records" from Russell.
"I thought he'd probably be a little bit further," Scott told Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News after the Lakers' morning shootaround. "But being at 19 years old, I always take that into consideration. Every time I chastise him about something or get mad at him about something, I go back that he's 19."
Scott is right, Russell is 19, and presumably has a much higher ceiling than his current level of play. However, expecting him to be "further" means maybe Scott really meant those Magic Johnson comparisons about Russell that he made on draft night, because even a rookie Kobe Bryant was comparably efficient to Russell:
Medina goes on to note Scott and Russell joking around after Scott said this, and while it may have been an unrealistic expectation, Scott seemingly meant no malice in voicing it. In this case, one could even argue that he was supporting Russell by stating how highly he believes in him, that he could be playing better.
If it was faith in him Scott was voicing, Russell backed it up against the San Antonio Spurs, scoring 7 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers fought hard and almost stole a win on the road against the second seeded team in the Western Conference. And while Scott brought Russell off the bench again on Saturday night and sat him for the final three minutes of the game, he plans to change that routine following the All-Star break:
Byron Scott said D'Angelo Russell will get the chance to start and finish games after the break. Thought about leaving him in tonight.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) February 7, 2016
Maybe with a few more minutes per game, Russell can meet his coach's high expectations.
All stats per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.