After getting swept by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers will have a chance to get some revenge by ruining the defending champions’ ring ceremony when they square off on the NBA’ Opening Night.
It’s no secret that series left a bad taste in the Lakers’ mouths, especially as the Nuggets continued to poke fun at them in various ways after going on to win the championship. Guys like Anthony Davis and Austin Reaves definitely heard the comments from Nuggets head coach Michael Malone with the former saying it added some motivation for him going into Opening Night.
In order to beat an exceptional Nuggets team though, the Lakers will need to be at their best, and it seems that D’Angelo Russell is as focused as ever. After the team’s final practice on Monday, he was asked about the back-and-forth between the Lakers and Nuggets leading up to Opening Night and downplayed the significance of it, via Michael Corvo of Clutch Points:
“Who cares? Next game. One game at a time. I’m the wrong guy to ask that one. Just another team we’re trying to get a win against.”
Russell, in particular, had a very tough Western Conference Finals as he struggled on both sides of the ball and was ultimately played off the floor in the decisive Game 4 loss.
Knowing how much he struggled, Russell was asked if the Opening Night matchup was something he circled when the NBA’s schedule came out, but he again downplayed the importance of this game to him other than just wanting to get a win:
“Great TV. But just another team. Obviously they beat us last so we [want to] go down there and take care of business and beat them last. That’s how we want to put it, simple as that. Sure you can make it what you want to make it, but we just really want to get the win and build off it.”
Russell seems to be taking the right course of action here as the best thing he and the Lakers can do is let their play do the talking by going out and beating the Nuggets to start the season off on the right foot.
Even though it’s only one game, the Lakers want to avoid getting off to a slow start in the regular season as they did last year so a win on Tuesday would go a long way in doing that.
Although Russell didn’t start the last time these two teams squared off, he will be in there for the tipoff of the 2023-24 season hoping to lead his team to a better result.
Ham expecting big season from Russell
Russell looked exceptional for the Lakers during the preseason, making plays for himself and his teammates while also improving his activity on the defensive end of the floor.
After seeing how his point guard has looked, Lakers head coach Darvin Ham recently stated that he’s expecting a big season from Russell in 2023-24.
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