Kobe Bryant has become so much of a ball-stopper on the Los Angeles Lakers offense that rookie guard D’Angelo Russell doesn’t mind playing in the second unit.
Per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Russell said he has more opportunity coming off the bench than he did as a starter.
Russell on 2nd unit: "There's just more ball movement. No disrespect to Kobe, but you know you have more opportunity because of who he is."
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) December 8, 2015
That’s a tremendously polite way of calling Kobe exactly what he is: a ball hog.
Russell certainly would never label his legendary teammate that way, nor should he. The Lakers already have enough problems. They don’t need to add an off-court dispute to the list.
Devout fans of Kobe are among the most vocal, but many are loyal to a fault. When shooting 50 percent on a given night is a big deal, it should be easy to realize he’s not good anymore.
Los Angeles coach Byron Scott — who is a problem for the team in his own right — decided to move Julius Randle and Russell to the bench, theoretically for more useful playing time.
Before the switch, the five-man starting unit of Roy Hibbert, Randle, Bryant, Jordan Clarkson and Russell managed a porous 92.0 offensive rating and 42.9 effective field goal percentage, per NBA.com. Bryant and his 30.6 clip as a shooter are most to blame for those struggles.
The biggest problem, though, is Russell and Randle are now playing alongside Marcelo Huertas, Robert Sacre and Metta World Peace, formerly named Ron Artest. Although the ball movement might be better, that’s basically punishing the young players, stunting their development and hurting the future of the franchise.
Ideally, the Lakers figure out a way for Bryant and Russell to coexist while keeping Randle in the lineup.
Until Kobe starts passing more, though, that’s not going to happen.