With the Los Angeles Lakers returning to their original starting lineup that includes a backcourt of D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves, the pairing is now getting a spotlight midway through the 2023-24 season.
The two have not been a necessarily dominant on-court duo, as they have a minus-6.1 net rating in 491 minutes together this season. That’s the fifth-worst net rating of any Laker duo that has played at least 250 minutes together.
However, what has become intriguing about the Reaves-Russell duo is their off-court friendship. It has become clear in recent weeks that the two have formed a significant bond this season. The pair started as the original first five backcourt, then were moved to the bench together almost in sequence, then moved back to the starting lineup. Anything they’ve gone through this season, they’ve done together.
And through it, Russell has built an immense mutual respect for Reaves. He gave his thoughts on the third-year Lakers guard and what he likes about Reaves’ game and personality.
“I like him. I’m just a fan of him,” Russell said. “I feel like I talk about this dude every time I do an interview. I’m just a fan of his game To be next to him and see him just be a fiery competitor on the court is contagious, and seeing him dominate the game in ways just with his competitive nature is contagious as well. So I mean, we golf together. He’s gonna be on my podcast soon. … We hang out. I’m a fan.”
Reaves was given the opportunity to respond to Russell’s praise, and he too had plenty to say about their off-court relationship and Russell’s on-court abilities.
“Like he said, we golf together. We spend quite a bit of time together here, outside of basketball, on the golf course and even on the road playing,” Reaves said. “He’s just a good person. Good people to be around. His people that’s with him are good people, so you want to put as many people like that around you as you can.
“When it comes to basketball, his skill is unmatched. When he’s got the ball in his hands, you feel comfortable with you know what he’s capable of doing what he’s going to do. He has played the game at obviously a really high level for like seven years now. But yeah, I’m a fan of his, too.”
Perhaps with the move back to the starting lineup, the advanced metrics on the Russell-Reaves pairing can improve. But it’s clear that chemistry is not the issue with these players, and their friendship can only grow as they continue to share the floor alongside one another this season.
D’Angelo Russell credits Lakers new starters
Russell spoke about what he liked from the new starting five and the way that they approach the game.
“With that group, I think it forces you to play high-level basketball. I feel like we got to this flow by just playing high-level basketball in the first half, carried over to the second half,” Russell said. “And ending the third quarter, carried over to a really good fourth quarter for us. Executed down the stretch. All that started from just everything before we even got to that point.”
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