The Los Angeles Lakers have been playing much better basketball as of late, and that’s without two key pieces in LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell in the lineup.
James won’t be back for at least a couple of more weeks as he continues to deal with a foot injury, although Russell appears to be much closer to returning from the right ankle sprain he suffered against the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 23.
Originally, the Lakers did not expect Russell to miss much time. The ankle sprain wound up taking longer to heal than expected though with Russell missing the last six games.
The point guard has been getting in some individual workouts though and recently began scrimmaging with the Lakers’ “stay ready” group. That is typically the last step before returning, and it appears Russell is on the verge of being back in action.
After Tuesday night’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Darvin Ham said that Friday against the Toronto Raptors is a possibility if he comes out of his next scrimmage feeling good.
“We have a playgroup arranged for him, so we’re targeting Friday,” Ham said. “We’ll go through the play-group process on Thursday and I think what he’s going to add is another high-IQ basketball player that has elite skill that meshes well with what we already have going on. Teams are so worried about him at the 3-point line, we’re gonna get a lot of defenders going over the screens on pick-and-rolls and dribble handoffs and actions or whatever and that’s just gonna open up the roll game for AD, Rui, whoever is the screener. When we roll, now we’ll be able to make plays downhill from the paint whether it’s scoring the ball or creating the hockey assist, the pass that leads to the score. We’ll be able to do all of that with him in there.”
Even though the Lakers have played admirably in Russell’s absence, winning four of the six games, they will certainly welcome him back with open arms.
As Ham alluded to, Russell gives the Lakers another much-needed ball-handler that can create plays for himself and others in the pick-and-roll while also adding spacing when he’s on the floor.
Lakers moving up in standings
With Tuesday’s win over the Grizzlies, the Lakers improved to 32-34, which is sole possession of ninth place in the Western Conference. After spending a majority of the season in 13th on the outside looking in of the Play-In Tournament, the Lakers are now firmly back in the mix and should only continue to improve their standing when Russell returns.
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