Archives For D’Angelo Russell

So, the Lakers traded D’Angelo Russell for Brook Lopez and a late 1st round pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. Typing that still feels weird. Probably because I don’t really like this deal, even if I understand it is likely a precursor to future moves (or, at least, it needs to be).

In order to try to figure out what the Lakers just did, Pete and I got to podcasting to discuss this thing. Be warned, we’re not happy. Click through to listen to our latest Laker Film Room pod:

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Okay…so this just happened.

As I pick my jaw up off the ground, here are a few scattered thoughts that probably won’t do the gravity of what just happened justice. But I will try to anyway…

I am a D’Angelo Russell fan. I believe his talent is fantastic and that, as a just turned 21 year old playing the hardest position in the league to adjust to, he was making real strides as a player. I see his trajectory going upwards and expected, if not this next season, than at some point in the next 18 months, we were going to see his full potential come into focus as an elite scoring guard who also possesses the type of court vision and passing acumen which can be the hub of a really good offense.

And now the Lakers have traded him as, basically, the grease to dump the salary of Timofey Mozgov. Read that sentence again. Did you do that? Now please do it again. Thank you.

Now to the nuts and bolts of this.

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You will not find a more divisive member of the Lakers today than D’Angelo Russell. Opinions of him run the spectrum of hot takes, with full throated endorsements and dissents colliding each day wherever you are. There’s not a single player who inspires as much debate, no, belief that they’ve pegged him not just for what he is, but what he will be as a player.

A quick example: This past Saturday I was checking into a hotel in the Bay Area and one of the employees who handles valet parking saw me rocking my Mitchell and Ness Lakers hat. He asked me if I was a “real” fan or not. I chuckled and said I was legit and then he peppered me with qualifiers — “Real like you’re nervous about the lottery on Tuesday?” Yes, I said. “Real like you didn’t want the Lakers to draft D’Angelo Russell?” — whoa there, buddy. “He’s got a terrible first step, doesn’t pass well…” I stopped him there.

This is how it is with Russell. Like an apparition, you either see it or you don’t. And no matter if you’re on the pro or con side, the person who doesn’t see it has instantly lost some credibility with you.

Fast forward to today and there are rumblings about Russell’s status with the Lakers. After the team retained their pick and the prospects of Lonzo Ball (or, in what would be a minor miracle, Markelle Fultz) becoming a Laker is now perfectly plausible, Russell’s name is starting to be muttered in the same sentence with words like expendable. The reasoning goes something like “who needs Russell now that you’re going to get Ball? Ball is the PG of the future, not Russell, trade him for someone better!”*

Full stop.

This is a mistake.

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In our latest episode of the Laker Film Room Podcast, Pete and I discuss D’Angelo Russell’s wild week which started with him playing poorly, then moved to the bench, then culminated with his return to the first five and a career high 40 point night.

We also touched on Luke Walton’s schemes, Brandon Ingram’s good month of March, and more. Click through to listen to the entire discussion.

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D’Angelo Russell returned to the starting lineup in Sunday’s matchup vs. the Cavs and he brought an offensive explosion with him. Russell shot the lights out, scoring a career high 40 points while dueling with Kyrie Irving the entire night. It was quite the sight to watch Russell score almost at will and from all three levels of the floor:

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There’s not a single player on the Lakers’ roster who receives as much backlash from fans as D’Angelo Russell. Often viewed through a deficit model, there is a vocal group of detractors who like to point out all he does not do and/or all he does do, but not well enough. It’s a fascinating (and often frustrating) thing to observe, especially when most metrics (as well as my eye test) point out that Russell is one of the team’s best players and top contributors.

Thinking what I think and knowing what I know, I have taken to the internet (my site, twitter, etc) to defend Russell’s play; to highlight the things I think he’s doing well and the ways in which he’s helping the team. This is often met with some combination of thank you’s, he’s still a bust tho’s, and a few flat out I don’t care’s. I say all this just so that you know that I know what’s going to happen next. So take this with this preface: I don’t care.

D’Angelo Russell is trending up even if you don’t see it.

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It was the Lakers’ first game after a nice Christmas win and D’Angelo Russell really wasn’t shooting the ball that great. The opponent was the Jazz and Russell closed the game with only 4 points on 2-11 shooting. Fans were in my twitter mentions telling me I was being overly praiseful of the Lakers’ 2nd year point guard because I had the audacity to tweet this.

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The walking wounded Lakers may have reinforcements coming. Both D’Angelo Russell (at least 2 weeks) and Nick Young (2-4 weeks) are in the window of time in which they may be ready to return and it looks like it will happen for both sooner than later:

Luke Walton also noted that Nick Young practiced fully on Saturday, with the implication he too should return shortly. So it looks as though Sunday’s game against the Knicks is a realistic target for Russell, with Monday looking almost close to certain. Young could potentially join him on Monday.

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