D’Angelo Russell admits he was ‘liability’ on defense for Lakers last season, vows to improve on that end of floor

Jesse Cinquini
3 Min Read

On Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers faced off against the Sacramento Kings in a preseason game. The Lakers went on to beat the Kings by a final score of 109-101, and point guard D’Angelo Russell performed at a high level in the win.

He scored 21 points and converted eight of his 12 shot attempts from the field. Additionally, Russell accumulated eight assists, one steal and one block.

After the Lakers’ win over the Kings, Russell spoke to the media and acknowledged his lack of defense a season ago.

“Last year, they found a way to get me off the floor by not playing defense I guess,” Russell said. “So try to be a reason to eliminate that and not give them a reason to not have me on the floor. Try to be as dangerous as I can on offense and try not to be a liability on defense.”

The Lakers acquired Russell via trade back in February of 2023 as part of a three-team deal that sent Mike Conley to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Russell Westbrook to the Utah Jazz. He averaged 17.4 points, 6.1 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game in 17 appearances with the storied Lakers franchise during the 2022-23 regular season. Also, Russell knocked down 41.4 percent of his 3-point attempts with Los Angeles.

The point guard’s 2023 playoff stint with the Lakers was marred by inconsistency, however. Against Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs, he had a great series. Russell averaged 16.7 points and 5.8 assists per game for the series while shooting 43.5 percent from the field.

But against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, the 27-year-old floor general really struggled to score the ball. He scored just 6.3 points per game during the series and shot 32.3 percent from the field, and the Nuggets ended up sweeping the Lakers in four games.

Hopefully, Russell will be able to replicate his solid defensive performance against the Kings on Wednesday throughout the 2023-24 regular season, regardless if he’s the team’s starting point guard or he comes off the bench.

Russell, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers will begin the 2023-24 regular season against the Nuggets in Denver on Oct. 24.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer covering the Lakers’ dreaded rivals, the Boston Celtics, for SB Nation. He has also covered the New York Knicks for The Knicks Wall.