D’Angelo Russell

D’Angelo Russell Fined $25K By NBA

Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell has been fined $25K for “verbally abusing a game official,” the league announced today in a press release (Twitter link).

According to the NBA’s announcement, the incident occurred on the court immediately after the Lakers lost Game 5 to the Nuggets in Denver on Monday.

It’s a bit of added insult to injury for Russell, whose season came to an end as a result of that Monday loss. Another veteran guard, Patrick Beverley, is expected to end up in a similar boat for his actions during the final moments of the game that ended the Bucks’ season — Beverley, who repeatedly threw a basketball at Pacers fans behind the Bucks’ bench in Indiana, will almost certainly face a more significant penalty than Russell.

The $25K fine is a drop in the bucket for Russell, who was earning a $17.3MM salary this season and holds a $18.7MM player option for 2024/25. There’s an expectation that he may turn down that player option in search of a more lucrative multiyear deal.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Bronny, Trade Market, Vanderbilt, D-Lo, More

While Darvin Ham‘s future – or lack thereof – with the Lakers figures to be a hot topic this week, what happens this offseason with LeBron James figures to have the more significant impact on the franchise in 2024/25 and beyond.

James is considered likely to play for a couple more seasons, one source briefed on his thinking tells Shams Charania, Jovan Buha, and Sam Amick of The Athletic, so retirement is extremely unlikely. He’ll have a decision to make on a ’24/25 player option worth more than $51MM and both routes – opting in or out – remain on the table, per The Athletic’s reporters, who say the four-time MVP would like to get a sense of how the Lakers’ offseason is playing out before finalizing a decision by the June 29 deadline.

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin hears that team officials didn’t have any real sense, as of last week, of what James will do with his contract, but both he and The Athletic’s trio agree that the Lakers want to bring back the star forward. LeBron’s relationship with Lakers ownership is “better than ever,” according to Charania, Buha, and Amick, and the front office would be open to discussing any contract scenario, including the maximum three-year, $164MM deal it can offer, team sources tell The Athletic.

“He’s not the problem here,” a high-ranking team official told The Athletic.

What did James have to say after Monday’s season-ending loss when asked about his contract situation? Not a whole lot, as McMenamin relays.

“I don’t have an answer … to be honest,” James said. “I haven’t given it much thought. … We’ll cross that when we need to.”

Asked if Monday’s loss might have been his last game as a Laker, LeBron replied, “I’m not going to answer that.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Team sources tell Charania, Buha, and Amick that the Lakers are “very open” to the idea of potentially drafting Bronny James to help LeBron fulfill his dream of playing with his son. The Lakers currently hold the No. 55 pick in the 2024 draft — they’ll also have No. 17 if the Pelicans opt to defer the L.A. pick they’re owed until next season.
  • The Lakers are expected to be aggressive in the trade market this offseason, per Charania, Buha, and Amick, who reiterate that Hawks guard Trae Young is viewed one of the team’s “many” potential targets. Young’s backcourt mate Dejounte Murray will also be discussed, says Dan Woike of The Los Angles Times.
  • As Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer notes, the Lakers will be able to trade up to three first-round picks this summer and have some appealing contracts that they could include in a deal, but there are other teams with larger collections of first-round picks who could potentially outbid L.A. for a star. League sources expect the Jazz and Pelicans to be among those who will be aggressive in trade talks, O’Connor adds.
  • Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt, who had been sidelined since February 1 due to a right foot injury, was available to play in Game 5 on Monday, but he didn’t see any action, writes Khobi Price of The Orange County Register. Like teammate Christian Wood, who was available for Games 4 and 5 but didn’t play, Vanderbilt should enter the offseason relatively healthy.
  • Speaking on Monday to reporters, including Price (Twitter link), D’Angelo Russell said he hasn’t made a decision yet on his $18.7MM player option for 2024/25, but acknowledged that he has some leverage and indicated he plans to take advantage of it. Despite the Lakers’ disappointing early exit, Russell was proud of his season on a personal level, per McMenamin. “Hell of a year by D’Angelo. Humbly saying that,” he said. “Through the ups and downs, through all the whatever you want to call it, it never bothered me. I always kept myself sane.”
  • After joining the Lakers on the buyout market in the second half of the season, L.A. native Spencer Dinwiddie said on Monday that he’d love to return if the team is interested in re-signing him (Twitter link via Buha).
  • Elsewhere on the Lakers front, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) previews the team’s offseason decisions, Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times argues that the club needs to do whatever it takes to bring back James, and Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times describes the Lakers as a mediocre team with no clear path back to contender status.

Darvin Ham’s Position With Lakers In ‘Serious Peril’

Darvin Ham‘s position with the Lakers is in “serious peril” following the team’s elimination from the playoffs on Monday, according to Shams Charania, Jovan Buha, and Sam Amick of The Athletic. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin agrees, citing league sources who say that Ham’s head coaching job is “very much in jeopardy.”

The Athletic’s reporters and McMenamin both say that the Lakers will take a few days to review the situation and assess what went wrong this season before making a decision on Ham’s future.

Although the Lakers finished with more regular season wins (47) than they did a year ago when they made the conference finals (43), there was a sense that this year’s team lacked an “effective direction” from the coaching staff at times, per The Athletic, and there were people within the organization confused by the way that Ham used his starting lineup and rotation over the course of the season.

As both The Athletic and McMenamin detail, Ham used a series of starting groups earlier in 2023/24 that frequently featured players like Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish, often at the expense of players that the franchise viewed more as part of its core, such as Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, and D’Angelo Russell.

There was a sense that Prince and Reddish were given opportunities to play through their mistakes that Reaves, Hachimura, Russell, and others weren’t, per The Athletic, and some team sources suggested to ESPN that the Lakers would have finished with a better record – and a higher playoff seed – if they had stuck to a starting lineup of Reaves, Hachimura, and Russell alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis earlier in the season.

“The job of a coach is to make the best out of what you have,” a team source told McMenamin. “And he wasn’t doing that.”

Reporting from both The Athletic and ESPN also pointed to Ham’s response to a post-Game 2 comment from Davis (“We have stretches where we just don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor”) as troubling. Rather than downplay – or even agree with – Davis’ comment, Ham took exception, praising his coaching staff and telling reporters that he would “agree to disagree” with his star big man.

Team sources told The Athletic that Ham’s rebuttal unnecessarily amplified Davis’ initial comment and questioned whether engaging in a back-and-forth with one of the franchise’s cornerstones was a good idea. A club source who spoke to McMenamin, meanwhile, was “confounded” by Ham’s lack of accountability and questioned the wisdom of praising the preparedness of his staff after the Nuggets had run their winning streak vs. the Lakers to 10 games.

According to The Athletic, the contract Ham signed in 2022 was a four-year deal worth approximately $5MM per season, so there are still two seasons left on it. If they make a coaching change, the Lakers would eat the remainder of that contract.

Pacific Notes: Harden, Leonard, Russell, Huerter

The Clippers‘ acquisition of James Harden during the opening weeks of the 2023/24 regular season was met with mixed reviews at the time of the trade, then major skepticism after the team lost its first five games with the former MVP in uniform. However, as Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register writes, Harden has been indispensable in the first round for Los Angeles with star forward Kawhi Leonard ailing.

Harden has played over 39 minutes in each of the Clippers’ four playoff games so far. He leads the team in postseason scoring (26.0 PPG), has been L.A.’s top play-maker (7.0 APG), has a scorching hot shooting line of .541/.500/.913, and even leads the club with 1.3 blocked shots per contest.

“That’s what James is here for,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said on Sunday. “When PG or Kawhi or one of our top dogs is out, to be able to step in and fill in and be able to score the basketball, make plays for other guys, make it easier for Norm (Powell) and Zu (Ivica Zubac) and Mace (Mason Plumlee) and those guys.”

Because Harden is in the second season of a two-year contract, he won’t become eligible for an extension before reaching unrestricted free agency this offseason. The Clippers will hold his full Bird rights though, putting them in a good position to bring him back.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • With uncertainty surrounding Leonard’s availability for the rest of the Clippers‘ first-round series, Lue is focused on supporting the star forward rather than bemoaning the fact that the team might have to continue playing without him, per Law Murray of The Athletic. “(He’s) worked hard to get to this point, to a place he wants to be in the playoffs,” Lue said of Kawhi. “And then to be hurt and not be able to be 100 percent and play the way he’s capable of playing, it’s very frustrating for him. I feel bad for him.”
  • The first-round series vs. Denver has been a roller coaster ride for Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell, who made just 6-of-20 shots in Game 1 and 0-of-7 in Game 3, but had 44 total points on 51.6% shooting (57.9% on threes) in Games 2 and 4. Mark Medina of The Sporting Tribune takes a look at Saturday’s bounce-back performance from Russell, who could become a free agent this summer by turning down his $18.7MM player option for 2024/25. For what it’s worth, L.A. has a +3.6 net rating in D-Lo’s 145 minutes on the court during the series.
  • It was a forgettable year for Kings wing Kevin Huerter, who saw his minutes reduced, shot a career-worst 36.1% on three-point attempts, and suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in March. “Frustrating is definitely the word,” Huerter said, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. “Even before the injury, just a lot of ups and downs — a lot more downs, I think, than previous years.” On a positive note, the 25-year-old said he’s ahead of schedule in his recovery from shoulder surgery: “They said 12 weeks out from surgery was (when I can) start shooting, doing on-court stuff. … We’re hoping August is contact. Should be on pace for training camp in September.”

Lakers Notes: Game 4, Hachimura, Wood, LeBron

Despite a 3-0 deficit, the Lakers‘ confidence hasn’t waned going into tonight’s Game 4, writes Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. L.A. has dropped its last 11 games to Denver, including seven straight in the playoffs, but the players aren’t convinced that the series is over.

“We have the guys here, we have the talent, for sure. You know, I don’t think anybody can beat us, you know, just the talent-wise,” Rui Hachimura said Friday. “… In my opinion, yes, we have the talent here, we have the guys that can beat any team in this league. And I talked to somebody about it too, but just this first round against Denver, it’s a conference final, it’s the exactly last thing. But even that, it’s the same story. We always up 20 and then we just come back and lose. So we just gotta put everything together and tomorrow we’ll see. We’re gonna play the same way and just gotta continue.”

Coach Darvin Ham isn’t planning any changes to his starting lineup, saying he wants to give his current unit a chance to respond to the challenge that the Nuggets present, Woike adds. Ham, whose job may be in jeopardy if the Lakers can’t rally, described the team as disappointed by its performance so far.

“Guys are irritated, frustrated, fed up, ready to make a change in terms of not continuously going down this road,” Ham said. “And the overall theme was just our mindset. Belabor the problems, what’s gone on up to this point or shift our focus to how do we stay alive? And looking at the film, had a really good first quarter. How can we sustain that type of performance during the duration of the game?”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Christian Wood has been medically cleared for tonight’s game, according to Khobi Price of The Orange County Register. The backup big man underwent surgery in March after missing about a month before that due to swelling in his left knee. Wood appeared in 50 games and averaged 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per night in the first season of a two-year contract he signed last summer.
  • There was a sharp contrast after Game 3 as Nikola Jokic talked about the long process of building a competitive team and LeBron James questioned what some of his teammates were thinking during the game, notes Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. The stability in Denver may lead to a second straight title, Shelburne adds, while the discord in Los Angeles will likely result in another summer of change.
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report examines what the Lakers might look like if James turns down his $51.4MM player option for next season and signs elsewhere in free agency. If D’Angelo Russell, Jaxson Hayes, Cam Reddish and Wood also opt out and New Orleans takes L.A.’s first-round pick this year, the team would have about $32MM in cap space to work with. Pincus suggests that if Russell picks up his option, he could be part of a trade package to obtain a reliable scorer such as Trae Young or Donovan Mitchell.

L.A. Notes: Leonard, George, Russell, Wood

The Clippers fell to the Mavericks in Game 3 and are now trailing the series 2-1. Kawhi Leonard, who was questionable before the game with right knee inflammation, played just 25 minutes and recorded nine points, nine rebounds and four turnovers before exiting the game for the final time with over four minutes left in regulation, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times.

Leonard missed the Clippers’ last eight regular season games and first playoff game. In his Game 2 return, he played 35 minutes but missed 10 of his 17 shots and scored just 15 points. He admitted that the inflammation is still bothering him.

It was pretty good the first game,” Leonard said of the inflammation. “Like I said, it didn’t respond the way we wanted it to. Tonight it was either play limited minutes or not play. And I wanted to be on the floor to help the team. And, that’s what the results are. Frustrating that it happened to me this late in the season. But, yeah, we’re going to keep going. We’re going to get it right.

Head coach Tyronn Lue told reporters that the team was managing Leonard’s minutes and is trying to be smart with how the’s used, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk (Twitter link). According to Youngmisuk, Lue said Leonard will be available for Game 4.

We have more from L.A.:

  • Paul George is averaging 4.7 fouls per game so far in the playoffs and has committed at least four in every game. Law Murray of The Athletic analyzes how George’s fouls are costing the Clippers in the series vs. Dallas. George has as many fouls (10) as field goals made (1o-of-25) in Los Angeles’s two losses. “Defense can be physical, they can be aggressive on me,” George said. “Other side of it, I pick up quick, cheap ones. And, you know, it’s frustrating. But I got to be better — I got to be better.
  • Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell has had an up-and-down series against Denver, shooting just 6-of-20 for 13 points in Game 1 before making seven three-pointers in a narrow Game 2 loss. In Game 3, as the Lakers went down 3-0 in the series, he made none of his seven shot attempts and was held scoreless. According to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha (Twitter link), coach Darvin Ham said he’s not considering benching Russell. Ham plans to roll out the same starting five for Game 4, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
  • Lakers reserve big Christian Wood, out since Feb. 14 with a knee injury, was upgraded to questionable ahead of Game 4, according to McMenamin (Twitter link). Wood, who averaged 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in 50 games this season, had reportedly been aiming to return in Game 3, but remained sidelined on Thursday.

Lakers Notes: Game 3 Loss, LeBron, Davis, Russell, Ham

The Lakers lost their 11th consecutive game to Denver on Thursday night and are now one game away from being swept out of the postseason by the Nuggets for a second straight season. As Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes, it’s hard to blame Los Angeles’ two stars for the Game 3 loss — LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 59 points on 26-of-43 (60.5%) shooting to go along with 21 rebounds and 12 assists.

“We’ve been — me and this guy [Davis] have been playing together for six years,” James said. “We’ve been to the mountaintop. We’ve been close to the mountaintop. We’ve played a lot of games. We know what it takes to win. We know what it takes to win a championship and how damn near perfect you got to be. That’s not like something that’s so crazy to obtain.”

While James expressed that he and Davis are confident in their ability to deliver big games when it matters most, he didn’t say the same about the rest of the Lakers, McMenamin observes. Austin Reaves had a solid night (22 points on 8-of-17 shooting), but the rest of the Lakers besides LeBron and AD combined for just 24 points and shot 10-of-30 (33.3%) from the floor, including 2-of-16 (12.5%) on three-pointers.

Asked if the Lakers’ were overwhelmed by the Nuggets’ execution, James replied, “You’d have to ask the individuals that question and see how they feel. It’s hard for me just to be like, ‘This is what I think that guy feels.’ … I can’t do that. I’m not a mind reader. I don’t know.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • A disastrous performance against the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals last spring hurt D’Angelo Russell‘s stock a little as he prepared to enter free agency. The same thing may be happening this year. Russell went scoreless on 0-of-7 shooting on Thursday and declined to speak to reporters after the game, according to McMenamin. Russell, who is now averaging 12.0 PPG on 32.6% in the first round, holds a player option worth $18.7MM for the 2024/25 season.
  • Davis told reporters after Game 2’s loss earlier this week that the Lakers “have stretches where we don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor.” Those comments were interpreted as a shot at the coaching staff and didn’t sit well with some people in the organization, according to Jared Greenberg of TNT Sports. “I can tell you from speaking to people within the Lakers’ organization, they were upset – and disappointed, quite frankly – by AD’s comments,” Greenberg said during an NBA TV appearance on Thursday (Twitter video link). As Sam Amick of The Athletic notes, when asked about Davis’ comments on Wednesday, head coach Darvin Ham told reporters he chalked them up to frustration and that he would “agree to disagree.”
  • With the Lakers on the brink of elimination, Ham is on the hot seat in Los Angeles, according to Bill Plaschke of The L.A. Times, who notes that some home fans began a “fire Darvin” chant during the fourth quarter on Thursday. Plaschke adds that Ham has been out-coached by Michael Malone during the first round so far, which has been evident by the way the teams have adjusted at halftimes. The Nuggets have outscored the Lakers by a total of 31 points in the third quarters of games, per McMenamin; L.A. has outscored Denver by 11 in the other nine quarters.

Sixers To File Grievance Over Officating

4:26pm: The league acknowledged in its last two-minute report that Brunson and Josh Hart both fouled Maxey during the last-minute scramble. It also indicated Nurse should have been granted a timeout on the inbounds play, Bontemps tweets.

7:26am: Following their Game 2 loss to the Knicks in New York on Monday, the Sixers intend to file a grievance with the NBA over the officiating, a team spokesperson told Tim Bontemps of ESPN and Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports.

According to Neubeck, the 76ers’ list of concerns will include (but won’t necessarily be limited to) the following:

  • Two calls in the last two-minute report from Game 1 went against the Sixers.
  • The Sixers have been the most disadvantaged team in the NBA this season based on last two-minute reports, with a report compiled in early April indicating that 22 missed calls benefited their opponents and 11 benefited them, the worst such ratio in the league.
  • The Knicks included detailed referee information in their game notes for the first two games of the series (Twitter link), which Bontemps describes as “unusual.”
  • The Sixers believe they should have been awarded a timeout at multiple points during a key inbounds play and possession late in Monday’s loss (Twitter video link). They also believe Tyrese Maxey was fouled during the play, with Jalen Brunson grabbing his jersey.

That inbounds play occurred with 27 seconds left in the game and the Sixers holding a two-point lead. Head coach Nick Nurse appeared to briefly signal for a timeout just before Kyle Lowry inbounded the ball to Maxey, who was held by Brunson. Maxey fell to the floor with the ball as Nurse attempted to call timeout again, but the Sixers lost possession before a timeout could be granted, leading to a Donte DiVincenzo go-ahead three-pointer.

“Well, the first thing is obviously they score,” Nurse said in describing the sequence after the game. “We take a look at getting it in quick. We don’t get it in quick. I call timeout. Referee looked right at me. Ignored me. Went into Tyrese, I called timeout again. Then the melee started.

“I guess I got to run out onto the floor or do something to make sure and get his attention, but I needed a timeout there to advance it. Would’ve been good. But, couldn’t get it.”

Joel Embiid was even more blunt in expressing his displeasure with the officiating.

“Everybody was trying to call a timeout on the floor,” Embiid said, per Bontemps. “Me included. Coach on the sideline. But they didn’t give it to us. But, forget about the timeout. There’s a bunch of fouls. That’s f—ing unacceptable. …That’s on the frigging referees. I hate to put the game on them. But I am sure the two-minute report is going to come out and we are going to see what happened. … We fought for 47 minutes and whatever 20 seconds. For that to happen … that’s not OK.”

The Sixers weren’t the only team with complaints about the officiating after a tough Monday loss. As Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes, the Lakers also had gripes to share after losing to Denver 101-99 on a Jamal Murray buzzer beater.

Los Angeles was upset that a Michael Porter Jr. foul on D’Angelo Russell in the third quarter, which would have led to a pair of free throws, was overturned because the contact was deemed “marginal” (Twitter video link). Russell later tweeted, “That’s a foul we all saw it on national television.”

“D-Lo clearly gets hit in the face on a drive,” LeBron James said. “What the f–k do we have a replay center for if it’s going to go [like that]? It doesn’t make sense to me. … It bothers me. … And then I just saw what happened with the Sixers-Knicks game too. Like, what are we doing?”

As Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets, the Sixers’ grievance isn’t a formal protest of Game 2, so it won’t affect the outcome of Monday’s contest. It’s presumably just an attempt at gamesmanship on behalf of the 76ers, who will be looking to regain an edge in the series as the teams head to Philadelphia for Game 3.

For what it’s worth, Embiid remains very confident in his team’s ability to pull out the series despite facing a 2-0 deficit.

“We’re good,” Embiid told reporters on Monday, according to Bontemps. “We’re going to win this series. “We are going to win this. We know what we got to fix. We did a better job today, so we are going to fix it. We are the better team. We are going to keep fighting.”

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

Anthony Davis could have some extra motivation for the remainder of the Lakers‘ first-round series against the Nuggets. Davis feels slighted that he wasn’t one of the three finalists for the Defensive Player of the Year award, he told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.

“I’ll never get it,” Davis said. “They’re not giving it to me. The league doesn’t like me. I’m the best defensive player in the league. I can switch 1 through 5. I can guard the pick-and-roll the best in the league, from a big standpoint. I block shots. I rebound. I don’t know what else to do. I’m over it. I’m just going to do what I got to do to help the team win and try to play for a championship. Accolades and individual awards, I’m done with those.”

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Austin Reaves is hopeful that D’Angelo Russell remains with the team beyond this season, and his reasons go beyond the court, he told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. “I want him to be around. That’s probably my best friend on the team,” Reaves said. “We hang out off the court and golf a lot together. We’re constantly in communication and play Call of Duty together. He’s been one of my closest friends since I’ve been in the NBA. Obviously, his basketball play speaks for itself with how talented he is and what he can do for our group. We need him to be at our best. When he’s playing at his best is when we’re playing at our best. Anything we can do or I can do to help him stay around, I’m definitely going to try to do that.” Russell holds an $18.7MM option on his contract for next season.
  • Jarred Vanderbilt is no longer wearing a walking boot, Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets. Vanderbilt hasn’t played since Feb. 1 due to a right midfoot sprain. He went through some drills during the team’s shootaround on Tuesday but won’t play in Game 2.
  • Coach Darvin Ham admits it’s virtually impossible to keep Nikola Jokic in check, Buha adds in another tweet. “It’s like (bleep), I don’t know what to do. You just gotta go out there and try to be as disciplined as possible, aggressive and consistent. And have a next-play mentality, man. … Kid is a generational-type player,” Ham said.

Lakers Notes: James, Davis, Vanderbilt, Russell, Wood

Lakers All-Stars Anthony Davis and LeBron James submitted good-but-not-great outings in L.A.’s 114-103 Game 1 defeat against the Nuggets on Saturday, writes Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times.

Guided largely by the efforts of those two stars, Los Angeles led Denver by as many as 12 points in the first half. James had 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 shooting from the charity stripe, along with eight assists, six rebounds, a steal and a block. He also turned the ball over seven times.

Davis scored 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting from the floor and 8-of-9 shooting from the foul line. He also grabbed 14 rebounds, dished out five assists and blocked four shots.

No other Laker scored more than 13 points. Woike notes that Denver enjoyed distinct advantages in offensive rebounding and combined second-chance and fast-break points, which also seemed to help make the difference.

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • Backup Lakers combo forward Jarred Vanderbilt is in a walking boot as he continues to deal with a right foot injury, per Khobi Price of The Orange County Register (Twitter link). Los Angeles head coach Darvin Ham claims the boot is not a setback, noting that “everything’s still going to plan” with regard to Vanderbilt’s recovery.
  • Starting point guard D’Angelo Russell had been on a tear for much of the second half of the 2023/24 regular season, and seemed primed to avenge his forgettable showing in last year’s Western Conference Finals defeat to Denver with this first round rematch. He had a rough Game 1, however, scoring just 13 points on 6-of-20 shooting from the floor. Ham made a point to defend Russell after his uneven showing, per Dave McMenmain of ESPN. “D-Lo is a huge reason why we’re here in the first place,” Ham said. “I’m not going to bail out on my player just because he’s missing the shots that he normally makes. So same shots were going in against New Orleans [in the play-in tournament] and other games that he’s played in to help us get to this point. So it just wasn’t his night.”
  • Reserve Lakers big man Christian Wood is hoping to return in time for Game 3 of the series, when the action moves to Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). He has been sidelined since a February knee surgery. Ham, however, cautioned that Wood “still [has] a couple boxes to check” before he can come back in this series, according to McMenamin (via Twitter).