Lakers Notes: Russell, Vanderbilt, LeBron, Davis, Reaves

D’Angelo Russell‘s strong play over the past few months – including 22.0 PPG and 6.8 APG with a .449 3PT% in his last 31 games – has made turning down his $18.7MM player option for 2024/25 and testing free agency a more viable option for the Lakers‘ point guard. However, he tells Michael Scotto of HoopsHype that his preference would be to remain in Los Angeles.

“I’d love to be here and continue to give it a run and be where my feet are now,” Russell said. “Obviously, I’ve been on the other side of it, and I’ve been through the roller coaster of free agency and having to sit back and wait. I’m looking forward to not having to worry about that. I’ve been blessed enough to put myself in this position with my play. I’m definitely planning on taking advantage of that. When that time comes, I feel that everything will play out how it’s supposed to play out.”

Even if he decides against picking up his player option, Russell could return to the Lakers, who would hold his Bird rights in that scenario and would be in a good position to sign him to a new contract.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt, who has been out since February 1 due to a left foot sprain, is ramping up his conditioning but has yet to be cleared for contact or to participate fully in practices, head coach Darvin Ham said on Tuesday (Twitter link via Jovan Buha of The Athletic).
  • LeBron James sent a text message to TNT’s Chris Haynes prior to Tuesday’s game, confirming that his absence vs. the Bucks was about managing his ongoing ankle soreness rather than any sort of setback (Twitter video link). “With my injury, I have to be very strategic and smart of how I manage the rest of the season with my ankle/foot in order to get to the finish line,” James wrote. “Whatever line that lies ahead.” According to Haynes, the expectation is that LeBron will be available against the Grizzlies in Memphis on Wednesday.
  • With James out on Tuesday, Anthony Davis stepped up in a big way in Milwaukee, logging nearly 53 minutes and putting up 34 points and 23 rebounds in a double-overtime road win, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Austin Reaves chipped in with a 29-point triple-double to help lead the team to the comeback victory. “I just think we’re an unpredictable team,” Russell said. “So depends on which team you get, depends on which team we are defensively, offensively as a unit. Some guys are better than others (some nights). Some guys have bad nights. It just depends on what team we’re going to be. When we’re in full effect like tonight — obviously, no Bron — but, I think we’ll be hard to beat.”
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