Lakers Coach Darvin Ham Issues Strong Statement on D’Angelo Russell’s Injury

Jordan Poole guards D'Angelo Russell

Getty Jordan Poole guards D'Angelo Russell

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham told reporters before the Golden State Warriors game on March 5 that starting point guard D’Angelo Russell is “day-to-day” as he continues to recover from a right ankle injury.

Ham said Russell is trending in the right direction.

“Well, he’s trending in the right direction. He’s day-to-day,” Ham said. “Again, there’s certain steps we take in terms of getting someone back on the game floor. It’s just not, ‘Okay, he’s made this many 3s in individual workouts, so let’s throw him out there.’ No, there’s steps we take. So it’s definitely trending in the right direction.”

Russell, who was acquired by the Lakers from the Minnesota Timberwolves at the trade deadline, sprained his right ankle on February 23 against the Warriors in the first quarter. The lefty played just 8:48. The injury occurred when Russell stepped back to inbound the ball under the basket and stepped on the foot of Warriors guard Donte DiVincenzo.

“Wrong place, wrong time definitely,” Russell said on February 23. “Pretty unlucky for me. Players roll their ankle all the time. I don’t do that often, so it’s obviously new. It is what it is. Not really worried.”

The Lakers defeated the Warriors on March 5 to improve to 31-34. Their next game is on March 7 versus the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s unknown if Russell will play.

Bleacher Report: D’Angelo Russell Will Be the Lakers’ Biggest X-Factor in LeBron James’ Absence

Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey thinks Russell will be the Lakers’ biggest X-factor in LeBron James’ absence. James, 38, is expected to be out for multiple weeks with a right foot injury.

For the Lakers to stay afloat in the West while James is out, Russell and Anthony Davis have to play at a high level every night.

“If Russell can continue to produce at that level while owning the middle of the floor with the version of Davis who was flirting with MVP candidacy earlier this season, there’s at least a prayer. AD had a 13-game stretch in November and December in which he averaged 32.4 points, 14.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.3 blocks and 1.2 steals,” Bailey wrote on February 28. “Russell will defer to AD as the No. 1 option, but his ability to hit pull-up jumpers, play with pace or patience as a ball-handler and hit Davis on the roll or spray out to shooters will lend L.A.’s offense some competence in LeBron’s absence.”

Russell is averaging 17.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.1 assists on the season while shooting 46.4% from the floor, 38.9% from beyond the arc and 85.0% from the free-throw line with the Timberwolves and Lakers. The one-time All-Star is putting up 13.5 points and 5.0 assists per game in four starts with Los Angeles.

Magic Johnson: D’Angelo Russell ‘Has Really Grown & Matured’

Lakers legend Magic Johnson, who traded Russell to the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2017 when he was in the front office, told Bryan Kalbrosky of For The Win in February that Russell “has really grown and matured.”

“I think D’Angelo has really grown and matured,” Johnson said. “He can score the basketball. He can pass the basketball. He doesn’t turn it over a lot. That’s what I like about him, too. That pick-and-roll with Anthony Davis is going to be special. You have to pick your poison for what you try to do whether it’s Russell coming off the PnR or Anthony Davis rolling to the basket and they’ll have some more time playing with LeBron. If the Lakers can get in, and I think they will, nobody is going to want to play them. That’s for sure.”

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on February 15 that the Lakers and Russell have mutual interest in a contract extension. Russell becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

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