Luke benches D’Angelo Russell, Lakers proceed to get blown out

Robert Gauthier/ Los Angeles Times

Another day, another loss as the Los Angeles Lakers continue their underwhelming season, although, this match against the Denver Nuggets held a special nugget (pun intended) for Lakers fans.

D’Angelo Russell found himself on the bench as Head Coach Luke Walton decided to experiment with Jordan Clarkson as the team’s floor general.

Russell had just come off a relative stinker of a game against the Philadelphia 76ers, where he tallied 11 points and 7 assists, so was that worth benching? Fans aren’t too sure.

Player stats from

The reason will most likely continue to be kept in the confines of the Lakers organization, but Russell’s benching came as a surprise to most considering he was averaging about 21 points a game prior to the tie with the Sixers.

So, why bench the team’s leading scorer and potential future star?

First off, in this effort to “experiment” with the lineup, the Lakers front office and or coaching staff have forgotten that the Lakers already suck, so by benching one of the team’s best young players, while on a good streak of games mind you, his confidence can be potentially diminished.

This showed in the match against the Nuggets, as Russell came out and had a couple of bad possessions, and didn’t really get in a groove, which has been contrary to his recent play.

Some fans may attribute this to a lack of passion, or even because Russell is “soft”, as the all-mighty basketball lord Byron Scott would say.

But in reality, a 21-year-old kid finding his footing in the NBA, who has been playing at a good level would understandably feel a lack of confidence after being benched for no apparent reason.

As this type of changes (i.e benching of young core) were not addressed at any time earlier, this was seemingly a decision made on the day of the game, which could have also played a part in Russell’s lack of confidence.

But, for all fans know, Russell knew he would be benched and Walton had time to talk to him about his role.

Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Even if that is the case, it is fair to ask what the benching would ultimately accomplish?

It has been apparent all season that Clarkson is a potent scorer off the bench, and has taken his role and made good use of it. So, what was he supposed to prove by starting alongside David Nwaba?

Considering Clarkson has played at shooting guard for most of the season, and the Lakers are more than willing to tank this year, starting Russell and Clarkson together could have been a better option.

Yes, it could be a shit-show by all accounts, but the organization truly has nothing to lose by giving it a try this late in the season.

Plus, it’s not like it could have been any worse than the scoreline that actually occurred in Denver.

Clarkson finished the game with 19 points and three assists in 33 minutes, while Russell had 10 points and three assists in 28 minutes.

In any case, this can be a game that proved that the Lakers should just let the young core stay intact, and continue to play their current roles to the best of their abilities.

Or, it can cause for more useless rotating of an already tanking squad this season, but who knows, maybe Metta World Peace is the savior the franchise has been looking for.





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