Lakers newcomer D’Angelo Russell hoping for a bull’s-eye – Orange County Register

EL SEGUNDO — D’Angelo Russell flew through the Lakers’ training facility on Friday morning with the air of someone more than comfortable in their new surroundings.

Why shouldn’t he? He’s been here before.

The 6-foot-4 guard (who turns 27 next week) re-introduced this week to the franchise, which drafted him No. 2 overall in Ohio State in 2015, only to trade him in part two years later over concerns about leadership and maturity. Whether Russell has grown in those areas in the six years he’s been away will be key to the Lakers’ playoff hopes with 26 games remaining, but he sounded more than up for the challenge of joining the team midway through Plug in power and try to push them back into the postseason.

“I’m a grown man now; I’m not a kid,” Russell said Friday in the first press availability of his second term with the Lakers. “I’m just looking forward to presenting it.”

Russell (from Minnesota) was alongside Malik Beasley (from Utah), Jarred Vanderbilt (from Utah), Dazu Reed (from Denver) and Mo Bamba (from Orlando). Of the quintet, Bamba is the only one likely to be unavailable against Saturday’s Golden State as he serves the final installment of his four-game ban following a scuffle with Minnesota’s Austin Rivers.

Time is of the essence. The Lakers are 25-31 as of Friday morning, 2½ games from a play-in berth (Seeds 7-10) and 4½ games behind the sixth-ranked Phoenix Suns (who added 13-time All-Star Kevin Durant). The Lakers have held tight with the Western Conference pack all season, but they haven’t broken it.

As the big man Anthony Davis said Thursday night in a pained tone, “I hate to say it’s going to take some time because we don’t have time.”

But while the new players said they haven’t had much time to speak to manager Darvin Ham about their roles, it’s pretty straightforward as to how they should fit in. Beasley, for example, knows he will be called upon to shoot for a team that is ranked 26th (33.9%) on the 3-point percentage this season.

“That was one of the first things[Ham]said, ‘I need you to kick that ball and get some shots,'” said Beasley, a 38% career 3-pointer. “I will do that. I will put in the work and learn the system very quickly, get used to this other life and be ready to go tomorrow.”

It also helps that three of the new players — Beasley, Russell and Vanderbilt — were teammates in Minnesota for three seasons (Vanderbilt and Beasley are going back to Denver for five seasons and playing in Utah together). Beasley said he thinks the trio could bring some joy and camaraderie to a dressing room that sometimes lacked both things.

“We want to bring energy, that young energy and have fun,” he said. “Make sure all the guys are together, even the young guys, and just keep everyone together, whether it’s from LeBron to the young guys. We’re in the thick of it, so we kind of have the vibe of being a vet but still young.”

In Beasley, the Lakers look to a talented, all-round, 6-4-sized shooter. At Vanderbilt they have a switchable defender that can bounce back. The 7-foot Bamba offers rim protection; Reed can offer shooting in a pinch.

But of course, many eyes will be on Russell, a former member of the “young core” who could be in line for some sort of LA redemption arc. The lottery pick has moved from Brooklyn to Golden State to Minnesota, but was midway a 2019 All-Star, going into the playoffs with the Nets and Timberwolves.

Though he never really considered returning to the Lakers, Russell said he’s in a better position to deal with the pressures of the franchise now than he was as a teenager.

“To come back with that resume, I feel like it helps the team or something,” he said. “I never hoped to be back here because I didn’t understand if I could be ready for that and be a part of what they do for the future because you never know what the team is going to be like so it’s hard to find stability in it. Lakers newcomer D’Angelo Russell hoping for a bull’s-eye – Orange County Register

Russell Falcon

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