The relationship between Los Angeles head coach Byron Scott and rookie D'Angelo Russell hasn't always been plain sailing since the number-two draft pick arrived at the Staples Center.
The 20-year-old has endured a fluctuation in his minutes and frustration at Scott's resistance to using him down the stretch in finely poised contests. However, since the All-Star break, something has clicked with the Kentucky-born guard.
Russell has been producing averages of 19.4 points on 47.9 percent shooting and 4.6 assists in 32.1 minutes in the 11 contests since the Toronto showcase. That includes going off for 39 points in a victory over the Brooklyn Nets - a total that none of Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson or Andrew Bynum could manage in their rookie campaigns.
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Scott has been with the Lakers since 2014, but he's also coached at the Cleveland Cavaliers and the then-New Orleans Hornets, where he guided a couple of point guards during their debut seasons, too.
Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving have gone on to do pretty well for themselves, and if Scott can have a positive effect on Russell like he seems to have done with the aforementioned pair, then the Lakers have a star on their hands.
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Scott believes that Russell and Irving are pretty similar offensively, but it's their work ethic that pleases him the most. Scott might not have thought that earlier on this season, but he's seen a change in Russell in recent weeks.
Scott said: “They’re about the same. [Russell] doesn’t necessarily enjoy being here 30 minutes earlier than everybody, but he does it. When practice is over, he stays on the floor. He stays out here and gets more shots up and works on his game. So you have to love that about him.”
“He works harder in practice now,” Scott affirmed. “The light for him has kind of come on. Before we start practice, he’s a little bit of a clown at times. He has his fun, which is great. But when we bring it in and we start practice, he gets serious.”
Scott is also cautious not to totally drain the personality out of his talented guard and to let him keep developing.
“I like his playfulness,” Scott said. “He’s 20-years-old. It shows that innocence that he still has. I don’t want that to go away just yet. But the other thing about him, though, is that when we start practice, he’s serious, he works. As long as he can separate the two, I’m good with it.”
However, he sees Russell's biggest flaw in his defence, and that's vividly reminiscent of his time spent with Irving in Cleveland.
Speaking about what Irving had to work on most, Scott told ESPN: “In general, the main thing was defensively. Just really starting to understand that part of the game.
"Every night there was going to be somebody that was equal or better or just a slight notch below him offensively. With him, I’ve never seen a 19-year-old that had really no weaknesses on the offensive end. But defensively, people were putting him in screen-and-rolls or isolating him, so that was the one thing we tried to really focus him getting better at.”