LA Lakers’ Byron Scott likes D’Angelo Russell’s progression, but is it enough to become a leader?

first_imgThe sample size filled with stronger production and increased minutes in a starting role made Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell credit something that went beyond his control. “I have more freedom and a longer leash,” Russell said. “Earlier in the year, it was no leash.”The Lakers (11-49) enter Tuesday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets (17-42) at Staples Center with Russell averaging 17 points on 50 percent shooting and 5.25 assists in 31.5 minutes since becoming a starter. That marks a sharp contrast from his season averages of 12.3 points on 41.8 percent shooting and 3.5 assists in 27.3 minutes per contest.Yet, Lakers coach Byron Scott downplayed whether Russell’s improved numbers stemmed from increased playing time. “I don’t think I loosened it up. He’s just getting more comfortable in his role,” Scott said. “I don’t feel it was that tight in the first place.”Russell lost his starting spot 20 games into the season and often sat in late-game stretches. But Scott argued Russell received his starting spot back as he sensed improvement with his playmaking, consistency and work ethic.“He’s getting more comfortable and his confidence is growing,” Scott said. “His practice habits have gotten so much better.”Yet, Scott sounded unsure on if Russell could become the Lakers’ leader.“He could, but that’s not something you can appoint,” Scott said. “Guys are going to follow guys they believe in and they know about the right stuff.” Russell argued he has leadership qualities. But as the Lakers’ No. 2 draft pick, he believes he needs to build credibility. “He’s being a little reluctant,” Scott said of Russell. “I think that the guys respect him. But they’re still sitting there and saying you have to show me this is something you want to do.” But Scott reported that Chris Paul earned immediate respect as rookie when he coached him in New Orleans (2005-06) by showing something Scott believes Russell has not fully mastered. “His work ethic has to be that guys are seeing he’s willing to bust his butt every single day to get better,” Scott said. “Is he a Kobe Bryant type worker? I don’t think we have that kind of worker. But he is a guy that works.”Practice makes perfectA quirk in the NBA schedule suggested the Lakers would enjoy Saturday off. But not in Scott’s world.“If you’re going to play like crap,” Scott said, “you’re going to practice a whole lot.”But does Scott fear that would cause resentment in the locker room?“Is that something I worry about? No.” Scott said. “We have a bunch of good guys who want to be good.”Standings raceThere appears little intrigue for Tuesday’s game against Brooklyn, except for one thing. Whoever loses the game could benefit in the NBA draft lottery in late May. “I can’t control that,” Scott said. “That has nothing to do with me at all or our team. The bottom line for us is to continue to grow and keep playing.”Injury updateScott expressed optimism Bryant will play both on Tuesday vs. Brooklyn and on Wednesday in Denver after missing Friday’s game vs. Memphis with a sore right shoulder. center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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