D'Angelo Russell returned after suffering something so minor he didn't want to call it an injury during his postgame availability, and he put on a passing clinic against the overmatched Maccabi Haifa to prove he's just fine. D'Angelo ended the night with 11 assists in 18 minutes, hitting his teammates with the kind of natural feel that is startling for a player as young as he is.
"If you're open, I'm going to get it to you. Half the time, you won't know you're open," Russell told media following his double-digit dime outing. Those passes coming out of nowhere are the ones that make make highlights and set him apart as an otherworldly talent. What the Los Angeles Lakers are doing around him on offense when things slow down to halfcourt sets has also been impressive though, quietly complements him well.
The kinds of sets the Lakers fall back into work to get cutters to the rim while creating open opportunities for shooters off-ball. Having Russell in control of the ball as the trigger man is a natural fit, especially if they're able to do things like this ... :
... and this:
... with consistency through the season. This team needs some bread and butter to ease the transition for such a new group of players. Russell has great touch, timing and positioning on his passes and can easily control this role. Shooters having passes from D'Angelo sailing to their hands in-sync isn't a bad look at all for the Lakers. These kinds of organized sequences cater to the Lakers' established talent's strengths while giving the younger players a framework to play within. Sure, it's against Maccabi Haifa, but this kind of offensive flow has been absent in recent years.
The offense is accomplishing positive things, which is a positive thing, especially in this process over results period.
D'Angelo did a great job conducting the offense, spreading the ball and making decisions. His teammates repaid the favor by making the most of the opportunities he served them, and the Lakers ran away with their first preseason win. It's crazy to think a player who makes the choices he does, as quickly as he does, has only played through Summer League and a handful of preseason minutes.
Back to that Kobe passing to Russell point
Little things like this with Kobe and D'Angelo, which we saw in their first game together, are fun to watch. Kobe draws so much attention that players can slither behind a defender or two. Russell has looked very comfortable moving off-ball and should do just fine playing off of Bryant:
Kobe no pass though.
There's significantly more movement overall compared to last season, and a much higher percentage of it has been creating these kinds of good shot opportunities throughout preseason. There's been a certain degree of open looks not going down in their losses, but this looks like a team with purpose on offense. It's refreshing to see sound basketball possessions regularly, rim cooperating or not.
Julius Randle has the green light to run the break when he comes up with the ball on defense, which means highlights like this doozy that nearly blew the roof off of Ontario are headed our way all season:
The move, the pass and the shot from Kobe going down made this one of the best sequences of the Lakers' first stretch of preseason games and is the play of the week. All in for the #RunTheJules movement.