The Los Angeles Lakers' losing streak stretched to eight games at the weekend as the Western Conference's bottom franchise fell 112-95 to the Memphis Grizzlies, their second consecutive loss to Zach Randolph and Co.
D'Angelo Russell started his fourth straight game for the Lakers as he continues to get more minutes in the post-All-Star schedule. The rookie finished with 22 points from six of nine from the field and also had three assists.
With Kobe Bryant's retirement approaching with every passing game, coach Byron Scott is looking for a way for his franchise to be successful once the future of Hall of Fame inductee waves a final goodbye to the Staples Center.
Article continues below
Scott, who spent time with a young Chris Paul at the New Orleans Hornets, has hopes Russell will turn into a leader, much like the now-Clippers point did during his six-year spell with the Hornets. The coach admitted Russell had improved in training but said the rook was still not at the level he needs to be.
As per ESPN, Scott said: "[Russell's] work ethic has to be that guys see that he's willing to go out there and bust his butt every single day to get better. [Paul's] work ethic and the things he did on the court on a day-to-day basis earned him that respect where guys like P.J. looked at him as the leader."
Article continues below
It has been an up and down debut season for the second pick of the 2015 draft, as he has averaged 12.7 points and 3.4 assists in 27.3 minutes of action per game for the Lakers, who currently hold an 11-49 record - the second worst in the league.
But this is not to say Scott does not have faith in Russell to become the leader the Lakers need, and he has seen sparing glimpses of that quality in the 20-year-old. However, he also knows not all players are cut out for the role and it is too soon to make a judgement call on the youngster's ability to handle it.
"He could [be a leader], yeah. Leadership, to me, is not appointed. It's anointed. Guys are going to follow guys that they believe in and guys that they know are all about the right stuff. I can't sit here and say he's going to be our leader. That's going to be worked out in the near future with the teammates that he has with him."
The rookie has a lot to live up to with his high draft slot weighing on his shoulders, but he has shown signs at times this season that he has what it takes to hang with the best in the NBA. The Lakers are crying out for a leader and it is up to Russell to step up and grab the opportunity with both hands.