Don’t Blame Byron Scott for D’Angelo Russell’s 4th-Quarter Minutes

With seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of a one-point game, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott subbed D’Angelo Russell in for Marcelo Huertas. 

Such peripheral movement for any NBA team doesn't normally cause a stir when the calendar reads November, but the second overall pick’s crunch-time minutes, and how they relate to his individual development, have so far been L.A.'s most controversial storyline this season.

It's an organization that should focus on cultivating an environment in which its young prospects grow, learn and prosper, but from the outside looking in, the Lakers are doing the exact opposite. 

Heading into Wednesday night's game against the Orlando Magic, Russell did not play a single second in three of L.A.’s seven fourth quarters. But the straw that (maybe?) broke the camel’s back came against the Miami Heat Tuesday, when Scott didn’t put Russell back in after removing him from a close game late in the third quarter.

In the eye of Laker Nation, it's a problem when the future of its franchise is on the bench instead of fighting through the type of mistakes any 19-year-old professional athlete needs to learn from. 

Scott’s caught most of the blame because, well, he decides when players play. But it's far from his fault.

Player development is a tricky concept. Nothing is promised, and the line between progress and stagnation tends to blur over time. There’s no evidence one way or another that rookies have a higher success rate if in their first season they play a ton or sit and observe. There's no general rule of thumb, and each case must be judged with context.

Let's circle back to the final seven minutes of Wednesday’s game—which the Lakers lost when Nikola Vucevic drained a buzzer-beating turnaround over Roy Hibbert’s outstretched fingert...

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