Even when he was asked how he could help Anthony Davis get more touches against the defense of the Memphis Grizzlies, the Lakers’ primary ballhandler chafed at the question, saying he was “a basketball player” and in a designated role.
“I’m a basketball player. You can’t keep saying ‘point guard,’” Russell said after Game 2 of the best-of-seven series tied at 1-1 and resumes Saturday night with Game 3 at Crypoto.com Arena. “I’m a basketball player.”
He has not been a very good one in these high-stakes games for the Lakers.
In two games against the Grizzlies, he’s shooting 32.1% from the field and 28.6% from three-point range while averaging 12 points.
In the last three high-leverage games the Lakers have played — which includes the play-in game against the Minnesota Timberwolves — Russell is shooting 27% from the field and 22.2% from three-point range in averaging 8.6 points — each well below his season averages of 46.9% and 36.9%.
Russell is listed as a point guard on the Lakers’ roster and other NBA websites.
Yet he has a different view.
“I’m a basketball player with this team,” Russell said. “Not really a point guard role. We kind of just hoop, you know?”
Russell has distributed the ball well and been solid on the backboards, averaging 5.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds in the playoffs.
Russell, who is making $31 million in the last year of his contract, continues to struggles with his shot.
“It’s a make-or-miss league,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said Friday after practice. “Sometimes you’re on. Sometimes you’re not. We’re just hopeful he’ll be on Saturday.”
When the Lakers published their injury report Friday, backup point guard Dennis Schroder was listed as probable with right Achilles’ soreness.
James (right foot soreness) and Davis (right foot stress injury) were also listed as probable.
All are expected to play, with Ham saying Schroder was “doing good.”
“He’s a soldier, man. He’s a tough kid,” Ham said. “He went through the walk-through today. Just a little bit … was out there. But most of the time out here, he was getting treatment. He’ll be fine. He’ll be ready for Game 3.”
Schroder has not been at his best offensively in this series, averaging 3.5 points on 25% shooting, 33.3% on three-pointers.
Surprisingly, Rui Hachimura has been delivering at a high rate for the Lakers in the playoffs, becoming their second-best option.
He is tied with James in scoring at 24.5 points per game, and Hachimura is doing his work while playing off the bench in 31 minutes per game.
He’s shooting a whopping 69.2% from the field and 70% from three-point range. He’s also averaging 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists.
“It just started from the regular season,” Hachimura said. “I’ve been working out with (Lakers assistant coach) Phil (Handy) and Phil was always telling me how the playoffs were going to be, how those shots and how I’m going to be a really important part of this team.
“Mentally, I was getting ready for this, for this moment. I just like those big moments, those big games. That’s how I get my strength and everything out. You know, how my mental was, I’m ready for this.”
This story originally appeared on LA Times