Going into the offseason, D’Angelo Russell was not the most popular player on the Los Angeles Lakers roster. The point guard struggled mightily in the playoffs and Western Conference Finals, in particular with head coach Darvin Ham eventually choosing to bring him off the bench in the team’s final game.
Some wondered whether the Lakers should even bring Russell back as he was an unrestricted free agent, but the two sides would agree on a two-year, $36 million deal. But the Lakers also signed point guard Gabe Vincent, who was a starter during the Miami Heat’s run to the NBA Finals and the belief was that the two would battle for the starting point guard spot in training camp.
That belief was ended recently, however, as Ham named Russell the starter before camp even began. And Russell was appreciative for the belief his head coach has in him
“I appreciate all that, honestly,” Russell said during Lakers Media Day. “Any words of encouragement from your head coach is always appreciated as a player. To have that trust in me, there’s obviously something to it. Just appreciative. Don’t want to let him down, I guess.”
It can be easy for a player to lose confidence in themselves, especially if the coach doesn’t believe in them either. Russell averaged just 6.3 points in the Conference Finals while shooting only 32.3% from the field and 13.3% from deep so many would have understood if Ham had some reservations, especially as the Lakers brought in another viable option in Vincent.
But Ham is looking to empower his players and in showing that he still has confidence in Russell, the point guard is now motivated to prove him right and not let him down. And while Russell struggled as the postseason went on, he was absolutely crucial to the Lakers’ success down the stretch of the regular season.
Russell averaged 17.4 points and 6.1 assists while shooting 48.4% from the field and 41.4% from 3-point range in 17 regular season games with the Lakers. Returning to that form in this coming season will make Ham and the fans extremely happy and confident in the point guard going forward.
Vincent has no problem with Ham naming Russell Lakers’ starting point guard
Some might wonder how Vincent feels about Ham’s proclamation of Russell being named the starting point guard before camp. It would be reasonable to believe one of the reasons Vincent joined the Lakers was for the opportunity to be a starter, but the new Lakers point guard has no issues.
Vincent made it clear that his job is to go out there and do whatever is needed of him to help the Lakers win games. Whether he is starting or coming off the bench, Vincent will do whatever is asked of him for the team to be successful.
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