Lakers Rumors: There’s ‘Concern’ That Bringing D’Angelo Russell Off Bench Could Lead To Losing Him Mentally
May 16, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell (1) shoots against the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter during game one of the Western Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers may have found an impactful adjustment from the second half of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. After losing the first half 72-54, they stormed back with a 72-60 second half before ultimately falling 132-126.

One of the changes made was seeing significantly less of D’Angelo Russell in the second half. Russell played just nine minutes in the second half after struggling on both ends of the floor in the first half.

So as the Lakers look for adjustments for Game 2, one of the potential options could be seeing less of Russell altogether and removing him from the starting lineup.

Reportedly, that option may have been weighed internally, but it comes with fear of what could happen the rest of this postseason if they choose to go that route, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

Russell — who shot just 4-for-11 and played only nine minutes in the second half after registering a plus-minus of -23 in 17 first-half minutes — would naturally be under consideration; however, multiple team sources told ESPN that there is concern the team could “lose” the 27-year-old point guard if he views the adjustment as a demotion after starting every other game this postseason. Schroder has already shown he can be comfortable as a substitute, as he didn’t start until Game 6 against Golden State. Russell got up extra shots after the game on the court while still in uniform.

Russell is an unrestricted free agent this summer and there have already been plenty of rumors that he and the Lakers have mutual interest in a new deal. But a Western Conference Finals benching after already winning two rounds with him as a starter could have a negative effect on the rest of this postseason.

The Lakers could also remove Dennis Schroder from the starting lineup after inserting him for Game 6 against the Golden State Warriors. He could return to his more effective bench role while allowing for Rui Hachimura or Jarred Vanderbilt to claim a starting spot.

Russell getting shots up after Game 1 loss

While still fully in uniform, Russell and Max Christie stayed at Denver’s Ball Arena after the Game 1 loss to get some extra work in. The two were getting shots up with a Lakers trainer in the hopes of getting ready for a bounce-back in Game 2, via SportsCenter:

Russell has been streaky all postseason, so hopefully he can bounce back for the Lakers in Game 2.

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