Lakers Notes: Russell, Starters, Davis, LeBron, Wood, Pelinka

After the Lakers signed Gabe Vincent to a three-year, $33MM contract in July, there was some speculation that he might supplant D’Angelo Russell as the team’s starting point guard. However, that’s not the plan to open the season, head coach Darvin Ham told reporters on Thursday.

“He’s our starting point guard,” Ham said of Russell, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “I’m going to encourage him to be assertive. He’s a highly intelligent basketball player who’s coming back with a chip on his shoulder. He chose us, we believe in him and he’s one of those guys who has a ton of pride and passion about not only his individual performance, but those of his teammates as well.”

Ham also confirmed that Austin Reaves will start alongside Russell in the backcourt, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis obviously penciled in for starting roles in the frontcourt. The fifth spot in the starting lineup will be up for grabs heading into training camp, as Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Every Lakers player is healthy and is expected to be fully available entering camp, according to Ham (Twitter link via Buha).
  • Although James and Davis have battled injuries in recent years, the Lakers are optimistic about the stars’ chances of staying healthy in 2023/24. Head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka acknowledged that “unexpected” injuries are always a possibility, but said that Davis has been focused this offseason on getting “leaner, stronger, quicker, (and) more explosive,” while James has taken his training regimen to a new level. “It’s staggering for a player who has 20 years under the hood already and is preparing for 21 like he’s a rookie,” Pelinka said of LeBron (link via Mark Medina of Sportskeeda). “He’s been doing 6 a.m. workouts. Probably been in our building as much as any player this offseason.”
  • Pelinka told reporters, including McMenamin (Twitter link), that he spoke to Christian Wood‘s agent almost daily for much of the summer and that the big man ultimately chose Los Angeles’ offer over others from contenders. Pelinka likened Wood to Malik Monk and Dennis Schröder, who each signed a minimum-salary contract with the Lakers and parlayed a strong season into a bigger payday the following year.
  • Pelinka spoke during Thursday’s press conference about prioritizing continuity and “trying to improve around the edges” this offseason, which is an approach that Ham appreciated, as Khobi Price of the Southern California News Group writes. “The sustainability of bringing back the main part of our core, and also adding to that – Rob used the phrase of not just going after star players, but players that star in their roles,” Ham said. “I thought we did a phenomenal job doing that, executing that.”
  • In a column for the Los Angeles Times, Bill Plaschke refers to Pelinka as the Lakers’ “most improved player,” praising him for admitting to and correcting his mistakes (such as the trade for Russell Westbrook) and for making a series of moves that have turned the club into a legitimate contender.
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