Lakers' Byron Scott takes issue with rookie D'Angelo Russell's 'cockiness'

At just 19 years old, Los Angeles Lakers' D'Angelo Russell has mainly been "the guy" on every team he has played on. Now halfway through his rookie season, Russell is still learning and adjusting to playing with other talented players like Kobe Bryant, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. He's had his moments, but he's also had his struggles. These struggles have led to some tough love from Lakers head coach Byron Scott, which is what happened on Tuesday night against the Mavericks.

After Russell missed a three-pointer late in the fourth quarter against the Mavs, Scott pulled the rookie and benched him for the rest of the game. Scott told reporters afterward that Russell was just "really trying to take over the game," which was hurting the Lakers as a whole. Russell shot 2-for-5 in the fourth before getting benched and finished the game with 12 points and zero assists.

From ESPN's Baxter Holmes:

“I saw the last couple minutes that he was in that he was really trying to take over the game, and that’s not him yet,” Scott said. “I want the ball to move a little bit. I thought it stuck with him. He tried to make the big shots and things like that. I understand that, but to me, that’s not him right now.”
In general, Scott said of Russell, "He's been more aggressive to score. I think sometimes he's taking what they're giving him, and I think there's other times where I think he's kind of forcing the issue. He has to find a happy medium. He's learning."

"I love the fact that he has confidence," Scott said. "When it gets to the point where it's cockiness, then we've got a problem."

Is he close to that point of cockiness where it becomes a problem?

"I think he's pretty close," Scott said. "I don't think he's there. I just think he feels right now that he's got a lot of confidence in himself. Like I said, that's a good thing. You don't get this far without having that. And sometimes you don't get this far without having a little cockiness, as well. But you don't want that to overshadow the confidence that he has.

"I think when you get cocky, you're thinking that there's nothing that you can't do. And if you think that, then you stop working."

All of this is quite fair of Scott to say about Russell especially since the Lakers rookie failed to record a single assist in the game. But considering Scott gives Kobe a free pass to basically chuck away, the message is a bit convoluted, which may be why coupled with his youth, Russell responded to Scott's assessment of his play by telling reporters that he would've still been in the game if his shots were going in.

"We had four, five playmaking players out there," Russell said. "I feel like everybody was trying to [take over]. They're a veteran team. They rarely mess up. So when you catch them slipping a little bit, you've got to take advantage of it."

As Russell added, "I feel like I was taking advantage of what they were giving me. It was a small split window of taking a shot or passing it up with a shot-clock violation on the line. It was always in my hands and I had to take a shot. I missed it. I don't know if [Scott] would've said that if I was making those shots."

Scott has been quite hard on Russell this season, using an old-school mentality to coach the Lakers rookie. So far, Russell has been able to play through Scott's criticism, using it to improve his game. His game has grown and developed a lot since the start of the season but clearly Russell still has a lot more growing up to do. 

Byron Scott and D'Angelo Russell try to see eye-to-eye.
Byron Scott and D'Angelo Russell try to see eye-to-eye. (USATSI)
CBS Sports Writer

Ananth Pandian has been writing about all NBA-related things including the social and lifestyle aspect of the sport for CBS Sports since 2015. His name is actually easy to pronounce, just remember it is... Full Bio

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