D'Angelo Russell was drafted with the No. 2 pick by the Los Angeles Lakers with the expectation that he would be the point guard of the future for the franchise. The Lakers needed Russell to be a success right away, and instead, he struggled as a starter and was benched. However, Russell has seen major improvements in his game ever since head coach Byron Scott moved him back into the lead role.
Russell is starting to play the point guard that the Lakers thought they were drafting with the No.2 pick, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com. Over the past three games, Russell has averaged 15.3 points and six assists in 32 minutes a game. In the loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Russell had 22 points and eight assists. Those are the numbers that Scott was hoping to get from the rookie, as Kobe Bryant stressed that all Russell needed was a shot.
"It's just a timing thing for him, just a rhythm thing," Bryant said. "It's very hard coming off the bench to really establish the game, especially as a point guard, because you're always chasing the game, because momentum takes place and now you've got to come and adjust to what's going on. It's much easier for him when he does start to be able to control the game and make certain reads and things like that. It's just easier for him to play better."
Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson are expected to take over the team once Bryant has retired, and Scott needs them to start playing like it. All three players are now starting for the Lakers, which is expected to continue for the remainder of the year. While the Lakers have no chance at making the playoffs, the improvement of those three players will go a long way in determining the type of offseason the franchise will have. Russell believes that they just need time to grow together.
"We can grow. We can play a lot tighter," Russell said, via ESPN.com. "There's a time when you can learn from each other as far as when one or them or myself mess up, we can figure out how to grow or we can watch film together."
The improvement of the three young stars could also dictate the future of Scott. The head coach's future is up in the air right now, as the team sits with one of the worst records in the league. The Lakers are not looking to tank this year, according to Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News. Scott is hopeful to get some wins to end the season.
"It sets a bad precedent, especially to this organization and people who have been in this organization for a long time," Scott said. "I never even behind closed doors tell my players, tell my coaches, tell the trainers or anybody that we're trying to lose games on purpose."