EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The Los Angeles Lakers are walking a tightrope this season, attempting to develop their young promising core while also trying to win games, which often means relying on veterans.
That dynamic played out Tuesday in a 120-109 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Lakers coach Byron Scott played veteran guard and last season’s Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams in the fourth quarter instead of point guard and 2015 No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell, who sat on the bench for the entire frame.
“Basically, you had a decision to make — do you keep the guy out there who is keeping us in it or bring the young fella back in,” Scott said after practice at the team’s facility here Wednesday. “I chose to go with Lou.”
Williams scored 14 of his 24 points in the quarter, helping keep the Lakers in it, though they ultimately lost for the fourth straight game to open the season.
After the game, Russell was searching for answers about why he didn’t play in the fourth quarter for the second time this season.
“I have no idea,” Russell said. “It’s something I’ve got to deal with.”
A day later, Scott said he thinks Russell is “fine” and not frustrated.
“I think he knows that he has to earn minutes, especially [late] in games when they’re on the line,” Scott said. “If Lou wasn’t playing well, I would’ve brought [Russell] back in. It’s more with me, who’s playing well at that particular time?”
Scott said it is his goal for Russell to eventually play during crunch time, but what does Russell need to do to reach that point?
“Just keep playing,” Scott said. “Cut down the mistakes. Continue to run the offense. Do a better job on the defensive end. All the little things.”
The 19-year-old Russell struggled in summer league, had an underwhelming preseason and is off to a slow start in the regular-season, averaging 8.5 points, 2.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 24.3 minutes per game.
Generally speaking, Scott said the goal is wining games, first and foremost.
“That is the reality,” Scott said. “But the second part of that goal is you’ve still got to develop the young core of guys that you have. That’s my job, to try to win basketball games and in the meantime try to develop young people.”
He added, “I’m not always thinking about necessarily developing them. I’m always thinking about trying to win. I’m always thinking about trying to win. The development part comes secondary to that, but in practice and everything is where you really work on the development part.”