With nearly two seasons of NBA play under his belt, it’s become clear that Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell’s most consistent quality is his inconsistency.
When Russell is on — like he was while dropping a team-high 28 points to go with six rebounds and five assists in the Lakers’ win over the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday — he’s as electric as any young player in the NBA, scoring on an array of deadly pull-up jumpers and lithe finishes around the rim.
When Russell doesn’t have it — like he didn’t in the Lakers’ loss to the Clippers Saturday, in which Russell went 1-9 to tie for the worst shooting percentage of his career (11.1 percent) — it’s painfully obvious to anyone with even passing experience watching basketball that he’s struggling.
This is at least somewhat par for the course with young players, something Russell acknowledged when speaking with the media Sunday:
D’Angelo: "[Figuring out] how to be professional at all times is what I’m trying to grow at.”— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) April 2, 2017
"Being young, being 21."
It’s a front Russell is making progress on, at least according to Lakers head coach Luke Walton (via Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com):
“I’ve seen more consistency in his professionalism and in his affecting the outcome of games, whether he is struggling or hitting shots, recently,” head coach Luke Walton said. “He had those early turnovers and, before, those games would kind of snowball a little bit and he would struggle the rest of the night.
“He’s done a good job of, whether he’s making bad plays or missing shots, still helping our team be in a position to win games, which is a huge step forward.”
Helping the Lakers when his shot isn’t on is something Russell spoke about a desire to learn how to do Saturday, and it’s something he didn’t get to work much on while shooting the lights out on Sunday.
However, from Russell’s turnover issues (he’s averaged over four per game over his last four contests) to his hot and cold shooting (he’s shot 50 percent or better 16 times this season, while shooting 30 percent or worse in 18 contests), he’ll have to make better decisions offensively if he wants to continue to grow.
For now, these are just the mistakes a young players makes, and as long as Russell recognizes that as a reason for his struggles — and not an excuse for not learning from them — then he would appear to have a bright future ahead of him.