Many questions loom on the Los Angeles Lakers, and among that involves their point guard, D’Angelo Russell.
Just a quick refresher first: Russell was traded away by the Lakers in 2017, just two years after selecting him second overall in the draft. After bouncing around a few teams, he then returned this past February via trade, which naturally sparked all-around intrigue and excitement.
Upon his return, the 27-year-old displayed his prowess on the court, making a significant impact on the Lakers’ late push for a playoff berth. He averaged 17.4 points and 6.1 assists per game while shooting an efficient 41.4% from beyond the arc through 17 games, providing a much-needed offensive boost. His presence in the line-up coincided with the Lakers’ resurgence, showcasing his value in clutch moments.
Unfortunately for D’Lo, the Western Conference Finals against the eventual 2023 NBA champion Denver Nuggets were a stark contrast to his prior success. His offensive prowess seemed to wane as he struggled to find his shot, averaging just 6.3 points per game on a woeful 32.3% shooting during the series, where the Lakers were swept despite playing it close in three of the four games. This struggle culminated in his removal from the starting five for Game 4, leaving questions about his ability to perform under pressure.
It went from a wave of praises to ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins sounding off about Russell, and how he shouldn’t be brought back, although yes, it is Perkins, who’s always too quick on his judgments:
After a few days of negotiation and waiting it out, Russell ultimately remained resolute in his determination to rewrite the narrative. He eventually opted to re-sign with the Lakers in free agency, inking a 2-year, $37-million deal with a player option for the second year. This commitment underscores his desire to run it back and prove that he can be a cornerstone of the Purple and Gold’s success.
Still, the nature of Russell’s contract also raises eyebrows. While he aims for redemption and is very excited for their potential this 2023-24 season, the trade-friendly structure of his deal creates the possibility of him being a trade target. Barring an outstanding season, the Lakers may explore the market, potentially using Russell as a trade piece to further refine their roster. We all know how much the Lakers go for glitz and glamour in their roster.
Being in the league long enough, D’Lo himself what’s up. Here’s what he said on the Patrick Beverley’s podcast earlier this week:
“I’ve been traded so many times, I can feel it. I could walk into the [team] facility and see how the janitor would look at me differently. I’m feeling all that.”
He fired back on the criticisms too:
Mixing it up with the new-look Lakers
For now, Russell ought to chop it up with the Lakers’ new blend of seasoned guys and emerging talents. The addition of sparkplug point guard Gabe Vincent, ‘3 and D’ specialist Taurean Prince, athletic wing Cam Reddish, and seven-footer Jaxson Hayes from free agency introduces fresh dynamics. His synergy with these new faces, alongside the promising Austin Reaves and the star duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, will be intriguing to watch as the team gels on the court.
As the Lakers navigate the complexities of their roster, Russell’s role may evolve, propelling him to boost his career in the heart of Hollywood. Whether he becomes a central figure or a pivotal trade piece, though, he’ll be a storyline that should be interesting to follow in the upcoming season.