Recent Los Angeles Lakers trade rumors revolve around D’Angelo Russell, who is experiencing a slump as of late. However, in Friday’s 107-103 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the point guard gave the Lakers what they wanted and this could take him off trade rumors at least for now.
In the past few games of the Lakers, Russell was coming off the bench. He did not complain about the relegation, but his performance declined. Before they hosted the Bucks, ESPN reported that team president of basketball operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson, general manager Rob Pelinka, and assistant coach Brian Shaw all told him to be aggressive.
Russell responded and in the Lakers’ defeat to the Bucks, he tallied 14 points, two rebounds, and two assists, in 21 minutes of action. He had a good shooting night going five of nine from the field, including two of three from three-point territory.
SB Nation’s Silver Screen & Roll suggested that versus Milwaukee, Russell had the “figurative aggression” the Lakers were looking for. The 21-year-old attacked the rim a number of times to either score or pass the ball to an open teammate. He also had no hesitations in taking the shot when he was open.
This is good for the Lakers because Russell is learning. He displayed aggressiveness but remained focused which helped him stay efficient on the court. The bad news was, he needed to leave in the third quarter following a heated scuffle.
In the closing moments of the period, the Lakers’ Nick Young was looking to finish a fastbreak play when the Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon fouled him hard in midair. Young retaliated by pushing the rookie which led to Milwaukee center Greg Monroe shoving him. Russell, trying to protect his teammate, also pushed Monroe. A few more players got involved in the skirmish before officials ended it.
The referees handed out technical fouls after they reviewed the video, and Russell was among the ones ejected. Instead of getting mad, head coach Luke Walton liked what his playmaker did and believed it was the “right thing” since Monroe attacked Young.
Setting aside the melee that took place, Russell’s performance in the contest was a great sign for the Lakers moving forward. He absorbed what the executives and coaches told him, which led to his best performance yet as a reserve this season.
Because of this, Russell might be removed from NBA trade rumors temporarily. Recently, his name was again mentioned due to the possibility of the Lakers selecting UCLA Bruins star Lonzo Ball in this year’s draft. A number of sports analysts and reports tried to discuss this possibility.
If the Lakers go for Ball, they will have a loaded backcourt. This will lead to Russell and Jordan Clarkson being regular topics in rumors.
Russell is no stranger to this and if he fails to impress in the Lakers’ remaining regular season games, then the rumors might come true. Johnson and Pelinka appear willing to complete deals this offseason to improve the franchise and bring it back to the championship pedestal.
Perhaps this is why Russell is trying to prove to the Lakers that he can adjust and he is valuable to the team. This season, the former Ohio State Buckeye averaged 14.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.3 steals in 53 games (50 starts). All of his numbers improved from last season, his rookie year, but this does not define his overall performance.
The Lakers are poised to miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year, which will be a franchise-worst. What was once a promising season is now another failed campaign as they currently sit on the bottom of the Western Conference with a 20-49 record.
[Featured Image by Reed Saxon/AP Images]