The Lakers will not pursue a max-extension this summer with D’Angelo Russell, who was benched for the first time in Game 4 following some lackluster performances.
“Russell is eligible to sign a two-year, $67.5 million extension by June 30, which the Lakers will not pursue at the max number, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN,” Dave McMenamin wrote this week.
If Russell’s asking price is around $30 million plus per year, that may explain why the Timberwolves didn’t mind moving him at the February trade deadline.
Since being traded to the Lakers, he was a key in their championship run during the regular season but his performances dipped in the postseason, averaging just 6.3 points and 3.5 assists on 32 percent shooting from the field against Denver.
Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Nuggets marked the first time LA coach Darvin Ham started the point guard on the bench but he responded in a measured and mature way.
“I mean, it was tough,” Russell said via Lakers Nation. “It was tough to agree with it obviously, but in a short period of time to not become a distraction to your teammates and to everybody else that’s preparing just like you to get the one goal done which is win. I knew that was where you had to be professional. You can’t be a distraction at this point of the season and things like that, so that’s kind of how I went about it. I wanted to be professional and try to dominate my minutes when there were minutes for me.”
Retaining players like Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura seem to be higher priorities on Lakers GM Rob Pelinka’s list than keeping Russell.
But considering how far their trade pieces carried them this year, keeping Russell would also be of benefit.