EL SEGUNDO — Well after practice ended on Thursday, Lakers second-year guard D’Angelo Russell sat for a talk with Lakers associate coach Brian Shaw. Russell later stood up to listen to Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka.
Throughout those long discussions, one common message emerged on what they want to see from Russell for final 14 games of the 2016-17 season, including when the Lakers (20-48) host the Milwaukee Bucks (33-34) on Friday at Staples Center.
“Be aggressive no matter what my role is,” Russell said after Friday’s morning shootaround. “Just be aggressive.”
Russell’s role has usually entailed being the Lakers’ starting point guard, a position where he has shown mixed progress. He has averaged 15.2 points on 40.2 percent shooting, 4.8 assists and 2.7 turnovers in 27.5 minutes. But in the first eight games after All-Star break, Russell posted 20.5 points on a 44.8 percent clip and 5.4 assists in eight games.
Russell’s role has since changed, though. He has come off the bench in the past two games out of Walton’s preference to evaluated third-year guard Jordan Clarkson at point guard with a traditional lineup. Walton said he also remains undecided if that will continue for Friday’s game against Milwaukee. Other candidates include veteran guard Nick Young and guard David Nwaba, who’s in the middle of his second 10-day contract.
“Do we want David’s defense out there?” Walton asked rhetorically. “Do we want Nick as a traditional shooting guard out there? Do we want D’Angelo so we can see him in a starting group with him and JC? Those are the three major [variables]?”
Walton has thus far resisted the last option. So far, the results haven’t been good. Russell has averaged 7.5 points on a 25 percent clip, 2.5 assists and 4.5 turnovers in his two games as a reserve thus far.
“I want him to respond better. I want him to be aggressive,” Walton said. “I want him to be really aggressive, even more so right now while he’s coming off the bench. That doesn’t mean he’s coming to shoot every time. But aggressive as far as pushing the ball, getting in the lane and every time he’s coming off of picks and playmaking as a way to get himself into the game quicker. It’s completely different when you start and naturally fall into the rhythm of the game. I want him to come out and be ultra aggressive in that role while he’s in it.”