ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes, however, reports Scott says Russell will start for the remainder of the season. Sunday was Russell’s first game back as a starter since Dec. 12; he played 34 minutes (2nd-most on the team, behind Jordan Clarkson) with 15 points, 6 assists and 2 rebounds. He was also 2-for-2 from the 3-point line. It was an impressive performance and it caught Scott’s attention. Here’s what Scott had to say in a post-game interview:
“I thought he played well. Both sides of the ball … Offensively I thought he did a really good job at getting our guys the ball and we had shots he took them.
It was just time [for him to start]. I told him he was starting this morning. He will start for the next 26 games … [I've seen] growth, maturity, each month he gets better. He's really starting to understand what this game is about. He still needs to pick it up at times. Obviously on both ends he needs to work. But I like what I saw tonight.”
But based on Scott’s complicated relationship with the Lakers rookie, it’s tough to take his word at face value. As you may recall, Scott is the same coach who recently said Russell was "not old enough" to meet with him individually. And less than a month ago, Russell was benched in the fourth quarter for "trying to take over" the game against the Mavericks.
Byron Scott talks about the team's game against Chicago & D'Angelo Russell's return to the starting lineup.
It’s not like the squad doesn’t want to see Russell and the young Lakers core develop. A few months ago, Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant benched himself with 3:56 minutes left in the third quarter in order to allow more playing time for the young talent on the roster.
While a role in the starting lineup would help create important on-court chemistry with Russell and the rest of the developing Lakers roster, it’s hardly a guarantee that Scott will stay true to his recent decision.
If Scott does change his mind (once more) and decides to bench Russell between now and the end of the season, though, he’d likely face an uproarious reaction from fans of the team. While many are already calling for his job, benching the No. 2 overall pick after announcing he’d start would only add fuel to an already dangerous fire.
Bryan Kalbrosky produces digital content for FOXSports.com. For more, follow him on Twitter @BryanKalbrosky