The 3-17 Los Angeles Lakers hit a new low on Sunday when they were blown out by the Detroit Pistons in a loss that was much worse than the eventual 111-91 final score. Byron Scott's response: bench the two players Lakers fans are most excited to watch.
D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, the franchise's last two first-round picks, will make way for veteran Lou Williams and rookie Larry Nance Jr. when the Lakers face the Raptors on Monday.
Scott said the move was to give the starting unit more "energy" and will last for at least 5-10 games. He added that this wasn't due to Russell and Randle's respective individual performances, but rather their fit alongside the other starters.
Byron Scott: "This change wasn't so much based on them not performing up to their capability, it's based on where we are as a team."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) December 7, 2015
Byron: "I’ve got to find five pieces at a time that can work and that can work well together. That wasn’t working so far as the first unit."— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) December 7, 2015
Nevertheless, the two young cornerstones are baffled.
Julius Randle says this is the first time he’s ever been benched in a non-preseason game dating back to his childhood: "It is what it is."— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) December 7, 2015
Russell: "Everybody has a story at the end of the day as far as what they’ve been through...Hopefully I can look back at this and laugh."— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) December 7, 2015
D'Angelo: "I was starting to figure it out and then this happened....I've never been in the (back-up) position."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) December 7, 2015
Julius on demotion: "You're never going to be thrilled about it as a competitor....I don't know, man. It's not my decision."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) December 7, 2015
Kobe Bryant, meanwhile, will start despite recovering from a stomach flu that he admitted would keep him sidelined if it wasn't his last season.
Kobe on suiting up tonight: "If it wasn't my last season, I probably wouldn’t have played."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) December 7, 2015
Lakers fans are understandably livid that their two beacons of long-term hope have been demoted.
It's been time to fire Byron for this D'Angelo stuff. It's getting worse. https://t.co/JUAuu7TenO pic.twitter.com/0CpUNir6aw— Tom (@TJFsports) December 7, 2015
Is Byron the worst coach in the history or organized competition? We’re talking middle school chess teams here, too.— Anthony F. Irwin (@AnthonyIrwinLA) December 7, 2015
December 7, 2015
Randle's posted double-doubles in four of his last five games, including a 19-rebound performance in a victory over the Wizards. Russell's play has been uneven, but he's also scored in double figures in four of his last five games.
Last 4 games. D'Angelo Russell: 13-5-4 on 42% Julius Randle: 13-12-1 on 42% Kobe Bryant: 18-3-3 on 27% DO YOU, BYRON. DO YOU.— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) December 7, 2015
They are far from the solution to the Lakers' poor play, but they are also far from the problem. In a season that's lost anyway, why not let them play?
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