In the past two days, Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell has heard from Luke Walton, Brian Shaw, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka.
All of them had a similar message.
“Be aggressive no matter what my role is,” Russell said. “Be aggressive. I think I was. I just wasn’t, I guess my mentality wasn’t in the right place and I wasn’t really making shots and creating for others, either.”
Russell has come off the bench for the Lakers in the past three games as Jordan Clarkson has started at point guard. While Walton considered starting Russell at shooting guard to begin the game with a Clarkson-Russell backcourt, he hasn’t done it yet.
In the first two games that Russell didn’t start, he seemed dejected postgame. Both were also blowout losses for the Lakers. Russell shot 6-of-24 during those two games and had only five total assists. Against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, Russell had two assists and seven turnovers.
After a Lakers shootaround on Friday morning, Walton said he saw Russell seeming down in the previous few days.
“Yeah, of course I want him to respond better,” Walton said. “I see it. … He says he’s fine. But I want him to be aggressive. I want him to be really aggressive. Even more so right now while he’s coming off the bench.”
To Walton, Russell being aggressive doesn’t mean just shooting the ball. He wants Russell engaging and pressuring the defense every time he has the ball.
“I think he’ll ultimately respond well to it,” Walton said of Russell’s current situation. “I think it’s important for all of our guys to respond well with adversity and being put in difficult situations. The only way to get better at stuff like that is to get through it.”
Another point guard’s view
Part of the challenge of being a young player in the NBA, especially a young point guard, is not being afraid to fail.
Bucks Coach Jason Kidd was one of the game’s best point guards when he played and he remembers that balance well. There’s also an innate quality a player needs to have that can help that.
“You have to be comfortable with yourself,” Kidd said. “It’s all right to put yourself out there. To miss a shot or to make a mistake. To be able to learn from it and own it. If you can do that, good things will follow.”
Kidd said the league now is much younger than it was when he entered it, and that impacts development.
“We have a lot of young players against young players,” Kidd said. “For me coming into the league it was just an older league. You learn from your vets of what to do and not to do. The little tricks. And the young players are going to take time. But we’ve got a lot of young players playing at a very high level and doing some special things.”
Backup center Tarik Black did not play Friday night because of flulike symptoms. Black practiced Thursday but felt too ill to participate in Friday morning’s shootaround and the game. … Shooting guard Nick Young suffered an injury to his left ring finger but still started for the Lakers on Friday. … The Lakers have now used 19 different starting lineups this season.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli