The relationship between Lakers coach Byron Scott and second overall pick D'Angelo Russell has been rocky from the start. He removed the highly touted rookie from the starting lineup and has sat him for entire fourth quarters and in crunch time for no reason. Not only that, but he has also been brutally honest about the many ways in which Russell has disappointed him. It's tough love taken to the extreme.
The little jabs through the media have been a constant this season and continued on Wednesday when Scott said Russell is less mature than two other rookie point guards he coached: Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul.
"[Irving] was just a little bit more mature," Scott said, according to ESPN's Baxter Holmes. "At 19, he was a little bit more businesslike at practice and games. D'Angelo still has a playfulness about him. Sometimes in practice he's joking around and losing a little bit of focus. But he's 19. I understand that. Chris Paul was probably like 23 years old by the time he came into the league in his mental capacity. But like I said, each point guard, each guy I have, is different."
That's not so bad. The problem is he answered a follow-up question asking whether Russell's playfulness was a bad thing by saying "I didn’t say it was a bad thing, but it is a bad thing at times," before saying that Russell is also behind those two other players in terms of development as well.
"Kyrie was a lot farther along," Scott said. "Kyrie, offensively, there was no weaknesses, and I haven't seen that in a 19-year-old since. And he's probably the first. He was more prepared from an offensive standpoint than Chris Paul was his rookie year, and I think I said that as well. Kyrie was just so much more advanced -- on the defensive end was a different story -- but offensively, he's just gifted. Very mature, very smart, so it was a lot easier. This is a totally different situation."
The hilarious thing is that Scott seemed to be trying hard to avoid saying anything negative about Russell, but was incredibly harsh anyway. He can't avoid throwing shade at him even when he tries to compliment him or at least contextualize his struggles, which was what he was doing in the first place by mentioning how young Russell is. It's like he's incapable of saying something nice without including a backhanded remark.
In fairness to Scott, he knows about the day-to-day of the team better than anyone else and Russell has struggled from the field and with turnovers. The rookie shouldn't be above criticism. Yet it's hard to see how comparing him negatively to two stars is supposed to accomplish anything positive.
At least Scott is trying to be nicer to Russell. He did say he has "a chance to be a very good basketball player" and has mentioned that he will likely return to the starting lineup at some point after the All-Star break. Hopefully that's enough for Russell to connect with his coach. If he's actually expecting praise of any kind, though, he will likely be disappointed.