After a rough outing in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell is looking for a bounce back season.
Russell signed a two-year, $36 million to stay in L.A. this summer and with Opening Night taking place in Denver on Tuesday, he has a chance to start the 2023-24 season on the right foot. The 27-year-old had the ability to spend a full offseason with the team to get comfortable with head coach Darvin Ham’s system and so far, the results have been great.
Granted it is preseason, but Russell looked more aggressive looking for his shot and even being active on defense. In six games. Russell averaged 13.5 points, 57.4% from the field and 45.5% from 3. It seems that the guard is focused on the upcoming season and Ham expects a big year out of him.
“I’ve been saying it since the summertime, I feel like he’s gonna have a big, big year,” Ham said of Russell. “Just seeing the way he was attacking his body, seeing the type of work he was putting in the gym. And again, losing together brings you closer and he had a tough series against Denver but it doesn’t represent who he is as a basketball player. And I knew that type of thing, for a guy like him and the way he’s programmed since I’ve been around him, that’s more fuel for the fire as opposed to being ostracized.
“He has that chip on his shoulder where he wants to help us win and he wants to be there in the mix of it playing good basketball and that’s what the preseason has shown thus far. He’s really hitting on all cylinders and again, he doesn’t have to go out there and try to carry any unnecessary weight. He can just play within himself and be efficient, which he has done, because of all of the different pieces that are around him.”
Ham clearly has confidence in his lead guard, notably naming Russell the starting point guard before training camp even began to take that question mark out of the picture. It has paid dividends so far as Russell looks ready for the regular season, which is reassuring to fans after the Conference Finals.
The beauty of this Lakers roster is if Russell is struggling offensively, there are other options available to pick up the slack like, Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, Christian Wood and Taurean Prince, alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, of course.
Regardless, things look to be trending in the right direction for Russell and the time spent working in the offseason may be the building blocks of a breakout season.
Reaves often reminds Russell that no one can guard him
When the Lakers acquired Russell, his ability to score at all three levels was desperately needed to pair alongside James and Davis. Once he gets it going offensively, he can be hard to stop and Reaves has to often remind his teammate that no one can guard him.
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