In a “what have you done for me lately” type of world, D’Angelo Russell’s dud in the Western Conference Finals is fresh on the mind. His work in helping the Lakers get there, both during the regular season and in the first two rounds of the postseason should not be forgotten either.
Russell certainly took all that into account when he offered his own assessment of the season in his exit interview on Tuesday. And he was decisive in his take.
“Complete success, honestly,” Russell said. “It’s been a great time. It’s been a great experience. To come back and be in this position as prepared as I was, I give myself a pat on the back for that one. Being able to just adjust and just get thrown into the fire with the team and try to figure it out on the fly and make it to the Western Conference Finals, a complete success. I can’t really complain about anything besides the ball going in when I wanted it to. Other than that, I enjoyed my time.”
The last part of that answer came with a sly smile, but that’ll leave a big impression on how fans view his season. During his 17 regular season games with the Lakers, Russell averaged 17.4 points on 48% shooting from the field and 41% shooting from the 3-point line. In the playoffs, those figures plummeted to 13.3 points on 42% shooting overall and a measly 31% shooting from beyond the arc.
There was a stretch of postseason games when he did find his form. From Game 4 vs. Memphis through the end of the Warriors series, Russell averaged 16.3 points but, more importantly, shot 48% from the field and 37% from the 3-point line, all averages much closer to his regular season ones.
He had big moments in there as well, none bigger than scoring 31 points in the decisive Game 6 against the Grizzlies. He hit the go-ahead shot against the Warriors in Game 1 of the next series and had 21 points in Game 3.
But playoff performances aren’t measured in arbitrary segments and Russell’s final series was as bad as any stretch of games he had in his second stint with the Lakers. It’ll leave a sour taste in mouths — and may cost him quite a bit in his contract negotiations — but it may not spell the end of his time in Los Angeles.
There’s a discussion to be had on Russell and whether he has a future with the Lakers that likely needs to come when feelings on the way the season end aren’t so fresh. But Russell is open to building with the Lakers moving forward and returning to Los Angeles.
“We had some success early when I first got here without having any offseason together,” Russell said, “any real time to just kind of get things going and some confidence under our belt with our system and with the guys that we have. We just kind of figured it out on the fly. To have that success, obviously there’s some positivity there. Would love to get the opportunity to see what that looks like but you know this is a business and this is the NBA so we’ll see what opportunity presents itself and, obviously, I’ll do the best for myself.”
As Russell noted, fairly early on in his return, he said he wanted to see this Lakers team together through a training camp. Rob Pelinka spoke of keeping the Lakers core together as well, though Russell likely isn’t at the center of those the team is looking to retain.
As with many things with the Lakers this off-season, there are plenty of questions left to be addressed. I mean, who even wants a boring offseason?
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.