Darvin Ham speaks out on D’Angelo Russell getting potentially benched

Mike Battaglino
3 Min Read

D’Angelo Russell potentially being benched was addressed by Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham prior to facing the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers lost Games 1 and 2 at Denver this week. Russell scored eight points playing 26 minutes in the 132-126 loss in Game 1, and managed 10 points in 33 minutes in the 108-103 loss in Game 2.

The guard shot 7-for-19 from the field in the two games and is 1-for-8 from 3-point range. The Lakers were minus-41 with Russell on the court, including minus-25 in Game 1, when he played only nine minutes in the second half.

“He’s not the best defender, so we wanted to make it tough on him,” Nuggets guard Bruce Brown said after Game 1.

Rui Hachimura’s playing time has increased off the bench for the Lakers, with the forward averaging 29.1 minutes in this series after getting 16.8 minutes per game against the Warriors. ESPN reported the Lakers were concerned they could “lose” Russell if they took him out of the starting lineup. He has started every game this season.

ESPN NBA insider Zach Lowe said the best starting lineup for the Lakers would be Hachimura with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves and Dennis Schroder. Lowe said that lineup was plus-28 in 35 minutes this postseason.

“I think that’s their best lineup in this series, I might just go ahead and start it, hurt feelings be damned,” Lowe said on his podcast, according to Heavy.com. “… I don’t love D’Lo in this matchup, that lineup just works, and I might just go ahead and start it if I were the Lakers.”

Russell averaged 16.7 points against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round, including 31 points in the clinching Game 6. He then averaged 14.7 points in a six-game, second-round triumph against the Golden State Warriors.

He averaged 17.4 points and 6.1 assists in 17 regular-season games for the Lakers after being acquired in a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Russell is playing in his third NBA postseason. He averaged 12.0 points and 6.7 assists for the Timberwolves in a six-game, first-round loss to the Grizzlies last season. In 2019, he averaged 19.4 points and 3.6 assists for the Brooklyn Nets in a five-game, first-round loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. He remembers the birth of "Showtime" and has always admired the star power the Lakers have brought to the game.