Western Notes: Lakers, Pelicans, Blazers

Despite a slow start for Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell, GM Mitch Kupchak has a lot of confidence in the shooting guard, Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times relays. Russell has scored in double-figures in eight of the Lakers’ nine games this month. Kupchak attributed Russell’s success lately to figuring out the pace of the game and believes the young player will develop into a triple-double threat, Pincus adds.

“There’s never a doubt, when we scouted him last year and when we drafted him and worked him out, that he was going to be a very, very, very, very good player in this league,” Kupchak said in a live chat on Lakers.com, transcribed by Pincus. “That’s our feeling all along. He did not have a very good summer league and I think that was a wake-up call for him.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Pelicans re-signed Omer Asik to a five-year, $58MM contract in the summer, but the center’s performance has been underwhelming so far, John Reid of The Times Picayune writes. Only the first four years of the deal are guaranteed, as Reid notes. The total value of guaranteed money is close to $45MM and Asik will be able to get entire value of the contract if he meets a certain amount of performance-based incentives, according to Reid, but his play indicates that’s not likely to happen.
  • C.J. McCollum is in the midst of a breakout season for the Blazers and there is a strong possibility he could be the league’s most improved player, Chris Fedor of the Northeast Ohio Media Group details. Portland exercised its rookie scale team option for the 2016/17 season with McCollum in September.
  • The Wolves were a perfect fit for rookie Karl-Anthony Towns in comparison to the Sixers and Lakers because in Minnesota he has veteran mentors like Kevin Garnett, Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press writes.

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