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Darvin Ham says D’Angelo Russell has been ‘keeping the game simple’

LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the stars that get all the attention and notoriety, but D’Angelo Russell deserves credit for being the conductor of the Lakers offense.

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

D'Angelo Russell.

Say the name amongst fans and you will get many reactions, from admiration to disdain or indifference.

For those who speak glowingly of him, there's a blend of nostalgia and appreciation for what Russell brings to the table. He is ours. Drafted back in 2015, he became part of the 'Baby Lakers, ' a term coined to describe the Lakers young core from the originals — Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson — to future iterations, such as Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball.

His return last season to the Lakers via trade brought back the prodigal son and helped the team go on a deep playoff run, which was inconceivable at the start of the season when the Lakers won two of their first twelve games.

He was back like he never left, but he also brought his flaws.

He was a defensive liability versus the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs and even this year, there have been games here and there where the offense was absent and the defense was suspect.

Wherever you land on Russell's game, one thing is clear: he's consistently been the Lakers' best guard night in and night out this season. And he's been doing so by just focusing on the basics.

"I just think he's been keeping the game simple and not trying to force anything and utilizing his teammates," Ham said before the Lakers' win versus Houston. "His pace in full-court, half-court has been really great. He's been really decisive whether he's on the ball, off the ball. Playing downhill a lot. Keeping things simple and making the play in front of him."

If you're a Russell skeptic, you have plenty of valid criticism. The biggest negative Russell has going for him is not what he is but what he isn't, a third star.

With him signing a new contract this summer and waiving his no-trade clause, Russell guaranteed he would be thrown into every trade rumor in the NBA from now until the deadline.

Whether he gets moved for a player like Zach LaVine, Kyrie Irving, or insert 20-plus scorer here, remains to be seen. Still, this current iteration of the team needs Russell to be great if they want to continue climbing the Western Conference standings.

Averaging 17.2 points, 6.2 assists and 3.5 rebounds a night, this is the best he’s looked in a Lakers uniform and if he continues to play well, he makes each ridiculous attempt fans have of churning out a better team via the trade machine more and more an exercise in futility.

You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.

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