LOS ANGELES — It did not appear anything bothered Lakers’ second-year guard D’Angelo Russell as he sat in the team locker room. Then, Russell sat down in front of a television screen to watch film in preparation for when the Lakers (20-48) host the Milwaukee Bucks (33-34) on Friday at Staples Center. During that time, Russell sang out lyrics from rap songs playing out of his iPhone.
Lakers coach Luke Walton will soon find out if Russell remains engaged for when he comes off the bench for the third consecutive game.
“I think he’ll ultimately respond well to it,” Walton said. “I think it’s important for all of our guys to learn how to respond well with adversity and being put in difficult situations. The only way at getting better at stuff like that is it to go through it. I would expect him to find his way through it.”
Russell has not found his way through his new role thus far. In his two games as a reserve thus far, Russell has averaged 7.5 points on a 25 percent clip, 2.5 assists and 4.5 turnovers. Yet, Walton insisted Russell does not need to play well to return to the starting lineup. Before Walton started third-year point guard Jordan Clarkson at point guard, Russell had averaged 20.5 points on a 44.8 percent clip and 5.4 assists in the previous eight games.
Instead, Walton reiterated his preference to start veteran guard Nick Young again has more to do with evaluating Clarkson at point guard while playing with a traditional lineup.
“We’re in a position that’s unique where we’re not in the playoffs. We might as well try different lineups and gather information and take it into the offseason and know what we can work on,” Walton said. “Can D’Angelo be a 2-guard. Can he play 2-guard alongside [Clarkson]? Can [Clarkson] be a starting guard against two units? This is all stuff we have the ability to try right now because of where we’re at. It’s good to see him and good for us to see him get experience doing it.”
Walton has maintained he planned to feature Russell and Clarkson starting together at some point. But it remains clear if that will happen as early as Sunday’s game against Cleveland at Staples Center.
So for now, Walton outlined his criteria for Clarkson and Russell in different ways.
For Clarkson, Walton wants to see how he blends his scoring and passing instincts.
“He needs to stay in a scoring mentality and then let his playmaking come,” Walton said. “That’s naturally who he is. When he’s at his best, he’s putting pressure on the defense. Then when they have to commit more than one to them, that’s when he’s able to make plays for others. I want him to see them coming out looking to score early on like he normally does when he’s playing.”
For Russell, Walton wants to see if Russell can limit his turnovers without compromising his aggressiveness.
“He has more of a green light than other players we think he’s capable of doing some special things. But we want him engaging the other team’s defense,” said Walton before citing Russell’s seven turnovers during Wednesday’s loss in Houston. “I felt like he got in trouble [against the Rockets]because he was trying to make spectacular passes without engaging the defense. So long defenders were able to jump in the passing lanes and help off of different players to get their hands on some of those passes. When we’re saying we want him to be aggressive, we want him putting pressure on that defense every time he gets the ball. If that ends with a shot or pass, that’s something he has to read when he’s playing the game.”