On Dec. 30 against the Minnesota Timberwolves, D'Angelo Russell took a charge and suffered a tailbone injury that sidelined him for a handful of games to start the new year.
The Lakers guard took that time and didn't just let his mind wander on the bench. He watched what was happening and figured out how he could help this team once he was back.
"That's exactly what it did," Russel said following a win versus Portland. "Just being, now that I'd seen us, trying really hard to get LeBron and AD the ball. You find yourself dribbling off your foot or looking crazy trying to force it. It's like, you've got to be aggressive around these guys. You complement these guys by being aggressive not passing to them. That's easy to guard. You're easy to guard when it's like that. So, just watching it, watching a lot of guys on the team kind of make those decisions. When I came back, I was like 'I'm going to be aggressive in those instances and I'll see it complements them.' It's complemented them so far."
Since his return, he's been averaging 22.9 points, 6.6 assists and 2.0 rebounds. His last four games have been particularly impressive, with Russell scoring 20 plus in each game. He capped off this recent run with a great performance versus the Clippers, where he had 27 points and 10 assists.
Am I aware my feelings are based largely on his recent hot streak? Yes. Do I think the Lakers should trade D'Lo? No.— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) January 24, 2024
Russell may not be part of the Lakers' future past the Feb. 8 trade deadline, but he's remained comfortable and focused even with trade rumors of a Dejounte Murray for Russell trade being discussed between the Lakers and Hawks.
With his recent play, Russell has even made a compelling case for the Lakers not to make a move and keep this roster intact. Darvin Ham has already stated that he thinks this team has 'more firepower' than last year's team, and if they can start demonstrating that as we reach the deadline, maybe the best activity is inactivity.
We've also seen that pairing of Russell and Austin Reaves can work as starters and with no bonafide superstar on the trading block, a case to run it back has never looked better.
Either way, Russell is playing winning basketball for this team and given how little winning they've done, that should be commended. He's consistently been the team's third-best player and has brought a level of consistency no other Lakers have, minus LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
If he stays, he'll be a positive for this team; if he's dealt, hopefully, it's for a player who can push this team even further than Russell.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.