D’Angelo Russell Downplays Struggles, Describes Progress As ‘A Wave’
D’angelo Russell Downplays Struggles, Describes Progress As ‘a Wave’

The Los Angeles Lakers bench scored 43 of their 87 points on Sunday night, bringing them back from a 16-point deficit to the New York Knicks, only to lose on a Jose Calderon game-winning three-pointer in the final minutes of action. All six members of the Lakers second unit had a positive +/- rating, with Lou Wiliams’ 15 points (7-of-12) and five assists leading the way.

“We play together,” Williams said of the bench. “I think Marcelo (Huertas) does a great job of keeping everything organized. For whatever reason, we’re just a selfless group. Everybody has a role in that second group.”

Head coach Byron Scott would’ve liked to see more from rookie D’Angelo Russell, especially in terms of pushing the tempo. Russell finished with just four points (1-of-7) and two assists, but said he was trying to find other ways to impact the game.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say I struggled last night,” Russell maintained at Monday’s practice. “I tried to find other ways to dominate the game besides scoring the ball.”

Scott sat Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle and instead closed the Knicks game out with Kobe Bryant, Williams, Huertas, Larry Nance, Jr. and Brandon Bass. A couple months ago, after questions about why Russell wasn’t being given more opportunities to finish games, Scott said he intends to close games out with his starters. On Monday, Scott said if the second unit is rolling, he’s sticking with it.

“Absolutely,” Scott responded when asked if he would consider finishing games with his second unit again. “Like I said, I’m going to play guys that are going to play hard when they’re out there for as long as they’re out there and if they’re playing well, then I’ll keep them out there.”

According to Scott, Russell responded very well in Monday’s practice, energetic and pushing the ball, which is what he wants from him in games. Russell is averaging 19.5 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.1 rebounds while shooting 46.0 percent from the field and 46.4 percent from three-point range, since his return to the starting lineup 11 games ago, but still sounds uncertain on his progress this season.

“I feel like it’s a wave,” Russell said of his progress this season. “I go up and go down. Play well, don’t play well, but I feel like that’s what comes with this league. You don’t play well every night. Keep putting the work in and live with the results.”

Williams said he’s noticing Russell play with more confidence.

“I think he’s starting to understand where he gets his shots, starting to understand the pace of the game better. Over time, we’re going to need him to get better and better in those areas, but I think he’s done that after the All-Star break.”

Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings come into town on Tuesday night. Tip-off set for 7:30 PM PST at Staples Center.

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