The Los Angeles Lakers have their second and final meeting with their former lottery pick and current Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell when they make the second-to-last stop of a current road trip in the borough Friday night.
Just over two years ago, telling a Lakers fan that Russell would only suit up for two games on the same floor as Los Angeles during his third year in the league would have seemed like a harbinger of doom for the team’s future given that they invested a No. 2 pick in him in 2015, but serving as the franchise’s future was ultimately not to be Russell’s fate.
Instead, he served as the enticing sauce that allowed the Nets to be willing to take on the albatross contract of Timofey Mozgov, with Brooklyn hoping Russell would be the chance at a young star they won’t get in the draft while owing approximately all of their future picks to the Boston Celtics as a result of their ill-fated trades for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Russell has shown promise during his lone season in Brooklyn, although injuries have limited him to just 24.1 minutes per game over 17 contests. Russell hasn’t been anything too special while averaging 14.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game over the five games since returning to the Nets’ lineup.
But in scoring 14 points in 21 minutes while hitting two of his five threes in a recent loss to Milwaukee, it offered a reminder of how electric Russell can be when he’s on. And based on recent history, he’ll probably come out firing against his former team.
In the Nets’ 124-112 loss to the Lakers back in November, Russell was anything but gun shy, jacking 24 shots to score 17 points along with dishing seven assists and grabbing 7 seven rebounds in the defeat.
Without Lonzo Ball’s presence in the lineup as the Lakers’ only defensively stout point guard, Russell might be looking at a better chance to be more efficient in his second meeting against his old team.
Russell will be the headliner, but he isn’t the only player the Lakers will have to watch out for. Spencer Dinwiddie has been incredible for Brooklyn this season as their starting point guard, averaging 13.4 points and 6.4 assists as he continues to look like a diamond in the rough for the Nets.
Brooklyn’s two-pronged point guard attack couldn’t come at a worse time for the Lakers, either. Ball has been declared out for the remainder of the team’s current road trip, meaning that Tyler Ennis and Alex Caruso will once again split the minutes at lead guard.
Caruso has outperformed expectations but still isn’t a guy NBA teams want sopping up the bulk of their point guard minutes, while Ennis has been downright awful this season. The spot starter is averaging just 3.5 on 37.9 percent shooting in an average of 11.7 minutes per game this season.
Additionally, the Lakers have been outscored by eight points per 100 possessions while Ennis is on the floor and just 2.6 when he’s on the bench, the largest negative swing of any rotation player outside of Corey Brewer.
Those two look like mincemeat on paper against Russell and Dinwiddie, especially with the Lakers on a two-game losing streak and looking like they’re in as much of a funk as they’ve faced this season.
One game doens’t relitigate a trade. The Lakers made the Russell/Mozgov deal because they had big dreams for their cap space this summer, and that move can’t be truly judged until then.
Still, if L.A. can’t get it together in Brooklyn, Friday could look like a revenge game for Russell while Lakers fans are left to wonder if he and Ball could have worked together after all.
Los Angeles Lakers (19-31) Vs. Orlando Magic (19-33):
4:30 P.M. PST, February 21, 2018
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Tyler Ennis
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Kyle Kuzma, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr.
Projected Magic Starting Lineup:
PG: Spencer Dinwiddie
SG: Allen Crabbe
SF: Quincy Acy
PF: DeMarre Carroll
C: Jarrett Allen
Key Reserves: D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, Joe Harris, Nik Stauskas.
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