"I was just disappointed in how we came out. Not just D'Angelo (Russell). It was pretty much everybody," Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott dodged a grenade when asked if he was disappointed in how Los Angeles Lakers' no.2 draft pick D'Angelo Russell played on Sunday.
Russell finished with four points on 1-7 shooting in 22 minutes. However, the coach managed to avoid piling on the rookie on this occasion and did not offer any notable criticism on the 20-year-old's rough night.
"He's 20 years old," Scott reminded reporters of Russell's age. "He's had a good run. We expect him to have bad games sooner or later. The league's going to start really taking a good look at what he does well. They're going to try to make him adjust. He's going to have to figure that as well. So, this is one of those games."
Scott added, "Hopefully, he snaps back."
Despite walking into the press conference clearly frustrated, Scott had managed to stay positive when talking about his young players. Then, Scott was asked what goes into making the decision to put young players back in the game versus sticking with a second unit that had brought LA back into the game from trailing by 16 points in the third period.
On this night, Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle had all been watching from the sidelines as the Lakers rallied back but ultimately fell just short of the New York Knicks.
"They've had enough experience doing that so far," Scott said about his young players finishing games. "I really and truly believe that. Sometimes, they have to understand that when that (second) unit is playing well, I am going to go with them."
Scott added, "The first thing is you try to win games."
Based on one's opinion of Scott, the coach's comments have been interpreted differently. For those looking to bash the Lakers' coach, those comments are grounds for dismissal because these young players clearly need as much time on the court as possible, and these kids do not have enough experience closing out games in the NBA. Winning games should not be the priority, and developing youth should trump all else. After all, the Lakers have the second worst record in the NBA.
For Scott's supporters, the words "so far" carry greater weight in that statement. Scott has brought along his young players at a slow, steady rate, and the recent strong play is an indication that the young players are progressing. At this point, sitting out at the end of a game does not stunt the players' development, as these kids have been provided plenty of opportunities to close out games "so far."
Unfortunately, there is no clear correct answer in this argument, and both sides have valid points and evidence to back up their points.
So, what does Kobe Bryant make of all this?
"It doesn't matter," Bryant said when asked about Russell, Clarkson and Randle all watching from the bench in the fourth quarter. "You have to be able to learn no matter the situations. If you're playing, you're learning a different way. If you're sitting out and watching, you're learning in a different way."
"It doesn't matter," Bryant repeated. "And that comes from experience. The first two years, I wasn't playing, and I chose to learn a different way."
Famously, Bryant could not crack the Lakers' starting lineup as a rookie or sophomore. However, in the moment, Bryant did not entirely enjoy being on the bench and even credited his hatred of former coach Del Harris as motivation for the night he outscored the Dallas Mavericks 62-61 over three quarters. Harris sat as an assistant on Dallas' bench that night.
"Yea, it is harder," Bryant admitted that being young does make it tougher to understand the bigger picture. "I went through it though. You're not going to cry on my damn shoulder."
Bryant added, "You got to man up. You got to learn and figure it out. No excuses."