Confidence is showing in D’Angelo Russell’s play
D’Angelo Russell was in the starting lineup Friday because of Jordan Clarkson’s sprained right ankle. Maybe he’ll stay there this time.
The rookie broke the 20-point barrier a second consecutive game, totaling 24 points, six assists and six rebounds in the Lakers’ 109-87 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
He didn’t shoot particularly well (nine for 23) and still got erased too easily on screens while playing defense, but there was too much progress to overlook.
He was sent to the bench earlier this week by Coach Byron Scott after starting the team’s first 20 games.
“You’ve got to build that relationship with your coach and know that you’re a rookie coming into this league, but you didn’t get here on accident. Once I get that trust from my coach, I know I’ll feel like I’ll have that opportunity more and more,” Russell said. “Guys are starting to see that [Scott] knows what he’s doing a little bit. I think it will only just get better.”
Maybe Russell will steal Lou Williams’ starting spot when Clarkson returns in a couple of games.
“He’s put together two really, really good games,” Scott said. “The next step really is consistency. The trick is doing this for a week, two weeks, a month.”
Scott said he hoped Russell would be entirely comfortable with the NBA game by the All-Star break.
It should be noted that Tony Parker did not play Friday for the Spurs. Russell, 19, did most of his damage against little-known Ray McCallum, a third-year point guard.
Regardless, he was solid from long distance, making five of 10 three-point shots. He never lacks confidence, that’s for sure.
“You watch all these guys on TV from a young age and then when you get out there on the floor, it’s a total different vibe,” Russell said. “You’re like, man, I can really guard this dude, can really compete against this dude. Let’s test him a little bit.”
Pop on Kobe
Few coaches have the dry sarcasm of San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, but he seemed earnest when talking about Kobe Bryant’s upcoming retirement.
“I wasn’t surprised. It’s gonna happen to guys that have been playing in the league as long as he has,” Popovich said. “When those kinds of guys stop playing, the league misses them. You have a lot of memories.”
Good memories? Not quite. Too many tough playoff losses to the Lakers. More like a respect thing.
“Those years where he and Shaq [O’Neal] were great, he came in at a very young age and performed well for a very, very long time,” Popovich said. “There aren’t too many people who understand how you bring it night after night after night at that level, and he’s one of those very, very few guys that did that.”
UP NEXT FOR LAKERS
When: 5 PST Saturday.
Where: Toyota Center.
On the air: TV: TWC SportsNet, TWC Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.
Records: Lakers 3-20, Rockets 11-12.
Record vs. Rockets (2014-15): 1-2.
Update: The Rockets are far below expectations after making it to the Western Conference finals last season. Point guard Ty Lawson has been a bust since arriving from Denver and is now coming off the bench. Dwight Howard has been in and out of the lineup for various reasons and had only four points Wednesday in a 109-103 victory over Washington.
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