D'Angelo Russell’s results trending up along with his learning curve


D’Angelo Russell has experienced several peaks and valleys during his second season.

Count Sunday’s game against Memphis as one of the peaks and, to Lakers Coach Luke Walton, another sign of Russell’s overall improvement this season. After a bit of a disjointed start, Russell finished with 28 points, six rebounds and five assists in the Lakers’ 108-103 victory over the Grizzlies. He also had only one turnover in the final three quarters after committing four in the first quarter alone.

Walton said Russell pulled himself out of the funk without Walton’s having had to say anything to him. That’s a change from earlier in the season.


“Being 21, not always thinking like a professional at times,” Russell said of his struggles to self-correct in the past. “It kind of hurts but grow at it.”

There have been other times this season when Russell has showed this kind of growth, and also times when he’s backslid. Overall his numbers have been strong since the All-Star break, even up until Walton removed him from the starting lineup and then re-inserted him as a shooting guard rather than a point guard.

His shooting percentage has improved by 4.2% since the All-Star break. He’s also shooting 1.1% better from three-point range. His assist percentage has gone up, but so has his turnover ratio. Russell’s net rating is considerably lower after the All-Star break than it was before, though his post-All-Star numbers might be a bit skewed by his changing role as the Lakers ponder his proper place in their future.

“He’s one of the first ones in the gym every morning,” Lakers guard Tyler Ennis said. “He’s going to work hard. Just him sticking with it. Coming off the bench sometimes, starting point guard, shooting guard. It’s tough to adjust but I think he’s done a great job just feeling aggressive, and when we need big shots he’s able to make them.”

Russell struggled to adapt to coming off the bench, then scored 40 points in his first game back in the starting lineup. He scored in double digits in seven consecutive games, then shot one for nine, making none of his six three-point attempts, against the Clippers on Saturday.

Walton said even that game showed some growth, as Russell made an effort to impact the game despite not shooting well. While Russell’s growth has been inconsistent at times, overall the trend has been positive.

“It’s been gradual but it’s not just D’Angelo, but most young players,” Walton said. “Forwards, backwards, you think you have it and you realize we’re not there yet. As a whole it’s been gradual increase from where I’m sitting throughout the year. You’ve seen them take more responsibility now for mistakes. Acknowledging things when he messes up. When other people mess up, trying to hold them accountable as well, which is what we want.”


The Lakers listed Tarik Black as questionable for Wednesday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs. Black suffered a sprain in his left knee against the Clippers and did not play Sunday against the Grizzlies. … Julius Randle’s double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds) on Sunday was his 18th this season. He has also made at least one three-pointer in six of the last eight games. … Thomas Robinson, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds against Memphis, has scored in double figures in each of the last four games in which he’s played.

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli