Lakers HC Commits to Starting PG: ‘Highly Intelligent Basketball Player’

D'Angelo Russell, Darvin Ham, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty Head coach Darvin Ham and D'Angelo Russell of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Los Angeles Lakers starting lineup appears to be set.

While LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Austin Reaves were all locks, there were still two spots up in the air through much of the offseason. At least until late speculation emerged that Rui Hachimura would occupy one of them, leaving just one spot and two capable options in D’Angelo Russell and free agency signing Gabe Vincent.

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham joined general manager and president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka in a “season intro” media availability on September 28 and provided some clarity on the final starting job for next season.

“He’s our starting point guard,” Ham said via the team.

“A lot was made about how things finished against Denver and whatnot. But at the end of the day, we don’t get to where we got to without D’Angelo Russell,” said Ham. “And I’m going to encourage him to be assertive. He’s a highly, highly intelligent basketball player. One that is coming back with sort of a chip on his shoulder.”

D’Angelo Russell to Keep Starting Role

It was a spot Russell held after the Lakers reacquired him at the trade deadline last season but, with his fade in the Western Conference Finals and Vincent’s signing, speculation has favored the latter. Russell averaged 17.4 points, 6.1 assists, and 2.9 rebounds, knocking down 41.4% of his threes in 17 appearances, all starts, for the Lakers last season.

He also started all every playoff game but saw his minutes reduced from 30-plus to fewer than 15 in the deciding Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the eventual champion Denver Nuggets.

“Again, he chose us. We believe in him,” said Ham. “And he’s one of those guys that has a ton of pride and passion about, not only his individual performance but those of his teammates as well.”

This is not the first we have heard of the Lakers remaining high on Russell.

“Maybe the Lakers can find an attractive offer leading into the trade deadline for D’Angelo Russell, especially if he doesn’t play consistently,” NBA reporter Mark Medina said, per Kerrie Jacobs-Bryant of GiveMeSport on September 7. “But the Lakers are bullish he can mitigate last season’s shooting woes and still remain an important reason for the team’s offensive efficiency.”

Though Ham has decided on his starters, he did note that he will look to take advantage of the Lakers’ depth during the regular season.

Lakers to ‘Tinker’ With Lineups

“That’s what training camp is for, in my opinion,” Ham said. “We’re going to tinker and interchange all different sorts of lineups. Whether it’s small ball, whether it’s going big, if we have Austin at the point or Taurean [Prince] at the 2, Rui at the 3. Or Bron at the 3 and Christian [Wood], and AD. … These guys are open for whatever we want to attempt to try to make work.”

Ham has previously called for players to be willing to sacrifice for the greater good, something he reiterated in this appearance. Russell has also noted that the Lakers’ depth will afford Ham with multiple lineup options.

That should make things easier for Ham should he have to make any changes to the lineups this season.

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