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Luke Walton says D’Angelo Russell has earned more playing time

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Los Angeles’ head coach is happy with how his sophomore point guard has been playing.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers starting point guard D’Angelo Russell has undergone something of a resurgence of late. A few warts (read: turnovers) aside, Russell’s play since returning to the lineup after sitting out with a knee injury has approximated what many were predicting to see from him coming into the season.

Lakers head coach Luke Walton told Bill Oram of the Orange County Register the extra burn he’s giving Russell is no accident, or mandate to play his young guard more.

“He’s been earning more minutes with his play, honestly,” Walton told Oram. “It wasn’t intentional, just a credit to the way he’s getting after it.”

In his first three games back, Russell has averaged 19.7 points, 9.7 assists, and 6.7 rebounds (with 3.7 turnovers) in 32.6 minutes per game. All of those (except the turnovers) are improvements on his season averages, including the increased playing time.

Russell has also played nearly a full minute more during fourth quarters over that stretch, addressing a major point of contention much of the fanbase had with Walton over his playing time in the final frame of games.

Not only has Russell increased his own production, but he’s made the team better as well. The Lakers have been five points better per 100 possessions with Russell on the floor this season, and over their last three games that number has exploded.

Three games is too small of a sample size to extrapolate conclusions for the rest of the season, but it’s worth noting that during that time frame the Lakers have been outscored by two points per 100 possessions with Russell on the floor and and a second-worst-on-the-team 13.4 when he sits.

Oram’s story goes in depth about how Russell’s improved work ethic and new pregame routine might be helping him, but for all of his flaws and the mistakes of youth, Russell has been making the team better overall when he plays all season. It’s a trend that’s been made even more noticeable both by how horrible the Lakers looked while he was out, as well as how much more competent they’ve been with him on the floor since he’s returned.

All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.