LOS ANGELES- It’s fair to say that Lakers head coach Luke Walton taking point guard D’Angelo Russell out of the starting lineup in favor of Jordan Clarkson has been a move that wasn’t well received by the majority of the team’s fan base. Russell had played poorly in his last game against the Philadelphia 76ers, but prior to that he had been putting together some strong basketball coming out of the All-Star break.
"I told him when I took him out it wasn't because of his play,” Walton said prior to the Lakers’ tipping off against the Milwaukee Bucks (and the announcement Russell was still coming off of the bench). “He was having a great couple weeks coming out of All-Star.”
But while Russell’s individual numbers may have been good, the team wasn’t playing how Walton would have liked.
“We were 1-7, and we wanted to try some other things. We're in a position that's unique in that we're not in the playoff, and we might as well try different lineups and gather information and take it into the offseason,” Walton said. “Can D'Angelo be a two guard? Can he play two guard alongside JC against starting units? This is all stuff that we have the ability to try right now because of where we're at."
Walton was asked by a member of the media if part of his motivation for the move was to see how Russell would react, a notion he confirmed.
"I think he'll ultimately respond well to it. I think it's important for all of our guys to learn how to respond well with adversity and being put in difficult situations,” Walton said. “The only way to get better at stuff like that is to go through it, so I would expect him to find his way through it."
When or if Russell will emotionally find his way though the move or back into the starting lineup before the season ends is unknown.