Lakers News: D’Angelo Russell Tried To Be Professional But Admits Moving To Bench In Game 4 Against Nuggets Was ‘Tough’
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

D’Angelo Russell fit like a glove after he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers at the trade deadline, slotting in as a perimeter threat and secondary scorer next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

While Russell looked great in the regular season, his playoff run was a different story as he had plenty of ups-and-downs. It looked like the guard struggled with the physicality and teams going directly at him defensively, but he did have some noteworthy games that the Lakers will consider when it comes to his upcoming free agency.

The former No. 2 overall pick has already expressed a desire to return to Los Angeles, but his future with the team remains unclear especially after Darvin Ham decided to bring him off the bench in Game 4 against the Denver Nuggets. Russell acknowledged it was a tough situation for him but wanted to remain as professional as possible about it.

“I mean, it was tough,” Russell admitted. “It was tough to agree with it obviously, but in a short period of time to not become a distraction to your teammates and to everybody else that’s preparing just like you to get the one goal done which is win. I knew that was where you had to be professional. You can’t be a distraction at this point of the season and things like that, so that’s kind of how I went about it. I wanted to be professional and try to dominate my minutes when there were minutes for me.”

The Nuggets hunted Russell every time down the floor, using players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown to make him work defensively. Aside from his lackluster defense, Russell also went cold shooting the basketball, which forced Ham to play Dennis Schroder and Austin Reaves extended minutes.

Not being able to play Russell in a high-stakes game in the Western Conference Finals isn’t a good look ahead of his free agency, but the Lakers should still be trying to retain him as they have no other means of replacing him. Given the circumstances, expect the two sides to negotiate a deal that makes sense for both parties.

Lakers won’t offer D’Angelo Russell two-year max extension

Russell’s poor showing in the Nuggets’ series likely cost him leverage and money in contraction negotiations, though he should still receive a decent amount. In that vein, the Lakers are reportedly not willing to hand him a two-year max extension.

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