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Lakers' D'Angelo Russell looks to build on 'average' first game

Lakers' D'Angelo Russell looks to build on 'average' first game
Lakers point guard D'Angelo Russell drives against Kings center DeMarcus Cousins during a preseason game Tuesday. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

It’s an important off-season for Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell as he enters his second NBA season.

But as he watches rookie Brandon Ingram, Russell realizes how much better things get over time.

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"It's gonna get easier," Russell said of his advice for Ingram. "The more you start to trust the system and relax, it'll get easier. His leash will get longer as far as what he can do to help better himself. He's going to realize where he can get his shots, what he can get away with in this league."

Still Russell knows he has a long way to go. The team's first exhibition game gave him a chance to assess that.

"It was average," he said. "I didn't have that pace, I didn't have that pep in my step. But it's all new."

The Lakers won that game, 103-84, but mostly on the strength of a fourth quarter in which a group that was mostly their own second unit outscored the Sacramento Kings reserves, 39-15. Earlier in the game, the Lakers had fallen into a 19-point deficit and went into halftime down 13.

Russell finished the game with four points, five turnovers and three assists.

With Wednesday off, Thursday afforded Russell and his teammates a chance to learn from that.

"Details," Russell said. "We missed a lot of screens, a lot of defensive assignments. We were a little lost on the offensive end. … Second half I feel like we brought that energy, and everybody got after it. It was fun in the second half. … Our main thing is taking care of the ball. We didn't take care of the ball well as a team. We missed a lot of free throws and a lot of shots."

Many adjustments, few lineup changes

Coach Luke Walton doesn’t anticipate jostling the Lakers lineups much as they get ready for their second exhibition game on Friday night against the Denver Nuggets.

"We probably won't change the lineup too [much] because I want to see after the adjustments and what we talked about how guys respond," Walton said.

The Lakers starters are guards Russell and Lou Williams, center Timofey Mozgov and forwards Luol Deng and Julius Randle. Guards Marcelo Huertas and Jordan Clarkson, center Tarik Black and forwards Larry Nance Jr. and Ingram were used as reserves against the Kings.

Black scored a team-high 15 points (tied with Williams) and helped spur the Lakers' second-half comeback.

Walton thought the Lakers needed to push the ball more consistently. He liked some of the team's defensive effort.

"There's other plays where we sat back on our heels and let the other team sling the ball wherever they wanted, and possessions like that ended up in them getting whatever shot they wanted," Walton said. "It was good to be able to show that to the players. … We  can keep preaching it, but I think when we can show it, the players can actually see what we were talking about."

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Twitter: @taniaganguli

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