D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle Making Do in Byron Scott’s ‘Big Boys League’

In their first 20 games this season, the Los Angeles Lakers had only three wins, and none of their five top five-man units had a positive net rating, per NBA.com. For an organization so publicly inflexible about its commitment to winning, this made for a historically grotesque opening month.

Then on December 7, head coach Byron Scott mercifully pulled the plug on a starting lineup that was getting outscored by 13.9 points per 100 possessions. His most noteworthy scapegoats? D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, who were benched for Lou Williams and Larry Nance Jr.

The decision sent shock waves throughout Lakers Nation. With a playoff berth already looking less likely than Kobe Bryant's bagging his third scoring title, why do anything but intensify the evolution of two potential franchise cornerstones by playing them as often as possible? Relegation seemed a tad counterproductive.

But what if Scott was right? We're dealing with a microscopic two-game sample size, but since their demotions, Russell and Randle have responded with the best basketball of their young careers.

The Lakers behave like they think it's possible to constructively balance player development while experimenting with radical lineup changes. Based on Wednesday's overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, maybe it's a realistic possibility after all.

Here's what general manager Mitch Kupchak had to say about Scott's recent decisions, per the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan:

I think Byron has got to continue to mess with combinations and search. That's really all you can do. What we're doing right now has not resulted in the kind of record that we like, so my guess is he's going to try and continue to move things around and try to find something that does. That's what a coach does.

A direct benefit both players get off the bench is the chance to battle less formidable opposition. Never was this more e...

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