The Lakers need point guard D’Angelo Russell to shine with the brightest light in the NBA playoffs, but he’s mostly faded.
Even when asked how he could help Anthony Davis get more touches against the Memphis Grizzlies defense, the Lakers’ primary ball handler chafed at the question, saying he’s “a basketball player” and in a certain role.
“I’m a basketball player. You can’t always say ‘point guard,'” Russell said after a 1-1 draw in Game 2 of the best-of-seven series, continuing Saturday night with Game 3 at the Cryptoto.com Arena. “I’m a basketball player.”
He wasn’t a very good player in those high-stakes games for the Lakers.
In two games against the Grizzlies, he shoots 32.1% from field and 28.6% from three-point range, averaging 12 points.
In the last three high-leverage games the Lakers have played — including the play-in game against the Minnesota Timberwolves — Russell shoots 27% from the field and 22.2% from three-point range, averaging 8, 6 points – each well below their season averages of 46.9% and 36.9%.
Russell is listed as a point guard on the Lakers roster and other NBA websites.
But he has a different view.
“I’m a basketball player on this team,” Russell said. “Not really a point guard role. We kinda ride you know?”
Russell distributed the ball well and was solid on the backboards, averaging 5.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds in the playoffs.
Russell, who earns $31 million in the final year of his contract, continues to struggle with his shot.
“It’s a make-or-miss league,” said Lakers coach Darvin Ham Friday after practice. “Sometimes it’s your turn. Sometimes you are not. We just hope that he will be there on Saturday.”
When the Lakers released their injury report on Friday, backup point guard Dennis Schroder was listed as likely with actual hamstring pain.
James (right foot sore) and Davis (right foot stress injury) were also listed as likely.
All are expected to play, with Ham saying Schroder is doing “good things”.
“He’s a soldier, man. He’s a tough kid,” Ham said. “He did the walk-through today. Just a little… was out there. But most of the time out here he was treated. He will be fine. He will be ready for Game 3.”
Schroder has not been at his best offensively in this series, averaging 3.5 points on 25% shooting and 33.3% on three-pointers.
Hachimura is thriving
Surprisingly, Rui Hachimura performed highly for the Lakers in the playoffs, becoming their second-best option.
He is level on points with James at 24.5 points per game, and Hachimura gets the job done while playing off the bench at 31 minutes per game.
He shoots a whopping 69.2% from the field and 70% from three-point range. He also averages 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists.
“It’s just started the regular season,” Hachimura said. “I’ve been coaching with (Lakers assistant coach) Phil (Handy) and Phil was always telling me how the playoffs were going to be, what those shots were going to be like and how I’m going to be a really important part of this team.
“Mentally, I prepared myself for this moment. I just like these big moments, these big games. That’s how I get my power and everything out. You know how my psyche was, I’m ready for this.”