Lakers News: D’Angelo Russell Trying To Stay In Moment But Appreciates Recent Run
D'Angelo Russell, Lakers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have been aided by a red-hot D’Angelo Russell since he was implemented back into the starting lineup 24 games ago.

Russell missed one game with an injury but is averaging 22.5 points and 6.5 assists on 47.0/44.4/85.1 shooting splits in his last 23 games — all starts — and the Lakers are 15-8 in those games. It’s been arguably the best stretch of basketball of his career.

On Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell showed again just how important he has been to the Lakers success. He posted a game-high 26 points on 9-for-17 from the field as the Lakers handled business against the Western Conference’s top seed at the time. The crowning moment for Russell though was a string of three consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that iced the game.

On the final triple of this stretch, Russell passed the ball to LeBron James, who immediately passed it back and told Russell to shoot. He went between the legs, then stepped back and drilled a 3. He spoke about this moment as part of another incredible outing.

“Yeah. I was gonna shoot it before I passed it but I heard him and I didn’t know what he was saying, I thought he was about to attack Chet and whatnot. But then when I heard him say ‘Shoot, go ahead,’ I didn’t even know I made the shot. I kind of didn’t see the rim and just threw it up there. Lucky shot,” Russell joked.

For Russell, this recent stretch has been about finding consistency off the floor as a way of being consistent on the floor.

“Just consistency. The more my game days can look the same as the last one, I think that allows me to get going sooner,” Russell said. “Any hiccups in the rotations, lineups, all that stuff becomes a distraction. For me, I try to just let distractions be distractions and not let my mind get to them. I always talked about when I first got around [Austin Reaves], I tried to give him that. Tried to let him know that a lot of stuff can be a distraction from the main goal which is to put the ball in the hoop.

“I’ve seen him over the time just kind of change his approach a little bit and stay locked in when things can get like that. So I just recognize it and try to attack it.”

Through it all, Russell admitted there are moments where he’s been too focused to take it all in but knows how special it is what he’s been getting to do and who he’s been alongside in the process.

“In the moment I don’t, but when I watch the game tonight and my friends will send stuff like that, it helps me realize that you’re really doing this, you’re really here,” Russell said. “The GOAT is like right there celebrating with you, it becomes crazy when you go back and look at it. But for me, I try to stay in the moment, stay locked in and once again, that’s a distraction, right? If you think about it, you’re locked into the game and you’re still in fan mode, it’s tough. So for me, I try to leave all that at the door but I’m still a fan of greatness around me, I recognize and appreciate it as well.”

The Lakers have been searching for a third star to raise their ceiling for several years now. But in Russell, they have found a perfect offensive complement to James and Anthony Davis. When he is at his best, the Lakers become a difficult team to beat.

D’Angelo Russell making up for lack of athleticism with work ethic

Russell recognizes that, among guards, he may be one of the slowest in the league. But for him, that’s only motivation to work hard in other areas to be what a team needs him to be.

“You don’t see a lot of me’s in this league as far as unathletic, y’all are laughing, but like finding a way to be valuable and be relevant to a team in the style that I do it. I’m probably the slowest guy in the NBA, but I still try to be in the right places and study the film and work my way into the right positions and the right places to help the team.”

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