By far the biggest issue with Luke Walton so far has been his stubbornness to keep D’Angelo out during the 4th quarter. Whether fans or the coach wants to admit it or not, D’Angelo is the best player on the Lakers.
Russell does have some issues with consistency and that can be frustrating for fans and coaches. His approach and body language may turn some people off, but there is no doubting his skills. These skill are better than anyone. His ceiling is better than anyone on the team. He should be playing in late game situations. Even if Lou or Clarkson are hot. This was Luke’s explanation (via Lakers Nation):
“We talk all the time. Not about just about his 4th quarter minutes, but how he needs to play and what we see and what he sees. If he’s doing those things then he is going to play in the 4th quarter. It’s not like a dangling of the carrot like ‘Hey if you want to play in the 4th quarter then this is what you need to do.’ It’s more like this is what we need from the point guard of our team.”
Luke is trying to send a message to D’Angelo that he is still in need of improvement which is fair. D’Angelo is far from the perfect player, but he does do things that other players on the team can’t and don’t.
Luke brought up how D’Angelo and coach Jesse watch a good amount of film before and after games to talk about what he did on the court. These are good things that help a young mind like D’Angelo develop. Luke touched on why D’Angelo didn’t much against Denver:
“This month he had really been doing a good job of fighting through screens and staying with his man. Last night (in the second half) there were 4-5 plays where he just didn’t guard his man.”
This is another understandable comment by Luke because D’Angelo does tend to have inconsistent defense at his age where he might not be as good as he was earlier in the year.
Everything being said, D’Angelo’s benching is still puzzling and very frustrating. Not only for a fan of Russell, but as someone who is optimistic on his future. Teaching a lesson by benching is fine, but Luke has relied on his bench too much this season and it might of cost him some games. The hope is that he counts on Russell more, but until then this just appears to be growing pains with a rookie head coach and a 2nd year player.
Did I mention he is from THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY?