The Lakers are reportedly concerned about the potential of losing D’Angelo Russell if he gets moved to a bench role in the Conference Finals series against the Nuggets.
The franchise fears that the switch could entice Russell to move to elsewhere as he becomes a free agent at the end of this season, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
“Russell — who shot just 4-for-11 and played only nine minutes in the second half after registering a plus-minus of -23 in 17 first-half minutes — would naturally be under consideration; however, multiple team sources told ESPN that there is concern the team could ‘lose’ the 27-year-old point guard if he views the adjustment as a demotion after starting every other game this postseason,” McMenamin wrote.
Many are suggesting that because of his defensive efforts against Nikola Jokic in Game 1, Rui Hachimura will earn himself a start in the lineup.
“I think it’s going to be big for me this series because they are very big, and we need the size,” said Hachimura.
Hachimura in the starting five would mean Russell will be battling Dennis Schroder for a starting spot on LA’s backcourt.
Schroder has started in the last two games and only got his first start in Game 6 against Golden State.
Meanwhile, Russell has been a starter since he arrived at the trade deadline.
The guard clearly wasn’t happy with his Game 1 performance as he stayed on the court and got extra shots up afterwards.
It looks as though a tough roster decision awaits Darvin Ham if he wants a bigger, more defense-focused lineup.
Despite his offensive inconsistencies this postseason, LA should try to retain Russell over the summer.
He averaged 17.4 points and 6.1 assists and shot 41.4 percent from three-point range in 17 appearances during the regular season.
Read more: LeBron and AD React to Narrow Game 1 Loss to Denver