Pacific Notes: D-Lo, Schröder, Curry, Kings, Hyland, Harden

While D’Angelo Russell had some good moments for the Lakers in last year’s playoffs, he also struggled mightily in the Western Conference Finals against the eventual champion Nuggets, leading to him being benched in Game 4 in favor of Dennis Schröder, a superior defender who had a preexisting relationship with head coach Darvin Ham. Russell, on the other hand, was acquired in a trade last February, meaning he’d only known Ham for a few months.

Russell claims he was “the scapegoat” for that series, which saw Denver sweep Los Angeles, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

(Schröder’s) relationship with Darvin is the reason I couldn’t have a relationship with Darvin,” Russell said. “When I was struggling, I would’ve been able to come to the coach and say, ‘Bro, this is what we should do. Like, I can help you.’ Instead, there was no dialogue. … I just accepted it.

And we got swept and I’m here and he’s not. And I like our chances.”

As McMenamin writes, Russell initially wasn’t enthusiastic about re-signing with L.A. as a free agent last summer, apparently in part due to the presence of Schröder. But on the first day of free agency, the Lakers wound up signing Gabe Vincent and Schröder signed with Toronto (he has since been traded to Brooklyn). Russell inked a two-year deal with the Lakers the following day.

The Lakers and Russell reached a compromise on that contract — he got a player option for 2024/25, but he also waived his ability to veto a trade.

Russell was featured prominently in trade rumors for months leading up to last month’s deadline, McMenamin notes, but the Lakers wound up keeping him because he’s been playing so well of late — since January 13, a span of 27 games (36.1 MPG), the 28-year-old is averaging 21.9 PPG, 6.4 APG and 3.2 RPG with a highly efficient .472/.452/.840 shooting line.

If he maintains that level of play in the postseason, Russell could very well decline his $18.7MM player option for next season and become an unrestricted free agent again in 2024.

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • For his part, former Lakers guard Schröder said he was confused by Russell’s comments, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. I don’t understand it,” the German veteran said. “But at the end of the day, it just shows off immaturity. You’re not really mature if you’re just keeping somebody’s name in his mouth and just running it. I don’t understand.” Ham also responded to Russell’s comments from McMenamin’s article, saying their relationship “is in a great place,” as Jovan Buha of The Athletic relays in a Twitter thread. “We have great conversations,” Ham said. “Great text exchanges after games. During the game our in-game conversations. … It’s tough. That’s why the phrase is called ‘building a relationship.’”
  • The Warriors expect star guard Stephen Curry to return to action on Saturday vs. the Lakers, tweets Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. Curry, who has missed the past three games with a right ankle sprain, said “that’s the plan” when asked if he was going to suit up tomorrow, per Mark Medina of Sportskeeda (Twitter link).
  • Kings guard Keon Ellis was in the starting lineup the past two games, and his defense on Damian Lillard and Russell was critical in both victories, writes Hunter Patterson of The Athletic. Sacramento knows it needs to continue to play strong defense to have a shot at advancing out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, Patterson adds.
  • The Kings are now 6-0 when Ellis starts. Will he continue to start going forward? Head coach Mike Brown sounded pretty skeptical about that possibility, per James Ham of The Kings Beat (Twitter video link). However, Brown said the second-year guard could finish games at times, similar to Sixth Man of the Year frontrunner Malik Monk.
  • With James Harden out with a shoulder injury, Clippers guard Bones Hyland made the most of his opportunity in Thursday’s victory over the Bulls, observes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Hyland, who was often left open due to the attention paid to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, recorded 17 points (on 6-of-9 shooting), 11 assists, five rebounds and four steals in 32 minutes. Harden will miss his second straight game on Friday, though head coach Tyronn Lue said the former MVP is “feeling better,” tweets Law Murray of The Athletic.
View Comments (6)