Report: Lakers fear D’Angelo Russell might take issue with coming off bench in NBA Playoffs

Peter Dewey
3 Min Read

The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly are concerned that they could “lose” guard D’Angelo Russell if he gets moved to the bench in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets.

According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the team fears that Russell might view the move as a demotion from his role after starting for the entire postseason.

“Russell — who shot just 4-for-11 and played only nine minutes in the second half after registering a plus-minus of -23 in 17 first-half minutes — would naturally be under consideration; however, multiple team sources told ESPN that there is concern the team could ‘lose’ the 27-year-old point guard if he views the adjustment as a demotion after starting every other game this postseason,” McMenamin wrote.

Russell was seen getting some extra shots up after his team’s Game 1 loss to the Nuggets on Tuesday night.

Los Angeles started Russell in Game 1 alongside Dennis Schroder, Austin Reaves, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but he did not close the game when the Lakers made a run on Tuesday night.

Instead, Lakers head coach Darvin Ham opted to replace Russell with forward Rui Hachimura down the stretch. The move paid off as the Lakers cut into Denver’s massive lead.

One of the keys with Hachimura in the lineup was playing Davis off of Nikola Jokic on defense. With Hachimura matching up against Jokic, Davis was free to roam and help at the rim in the fourth quarter.

While the team certainly doesn’t want to lose Russell, who has put together some big games on this postseason run, it seems like the best defensive lineup the Lakers have comes with him on the bench.

The Lakers held the Nuggets to just 26 points in the fourth quarter in Game 1, their lowest in any quarter in the game. Russell did not play a single minute in the final period.

Overall, the Lakers guard didn’t play great offensively, scoring just eight points and dishing out three assists in 26 minutes of action. He failed to make all three of his attempts from beyond the arc as well.

Ham will have a tough decision to make regarding Russell going forward in this series. There’s no doubt that the Lakers need him to beat Denver, but he may not be able to see the same usage that he saw against the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Share This Article
Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.