(Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)
Walton Assesses Performance of Russell, Team
After D’Angelo Russell and Damian Lillard exchanged words and contact during the third quarter of Tuesday’s loss to Portland, both point guards were handed technical fouls for the skirmish that later led Lillard to claim that Russell “poked the bear.”
Lillard, who had just two points at halftime, ended up with 20 after being motivated by the way Russell was using his elbows against him.
Russell denied any accusation of dirty play at Wednesday’s practice, and head coach Luke Walton said he didn’t see any after watching the game tape.
“As long as D’Angelo is competing, I’m fine with some trash talk, whatever it is,” Walton said. “And I thought he was competing last night. So if his emotion leads him to do that while he’s competing, then I have no problem with it.”
Walton went so far as to say that Russell “competed his butt off,” but the team itself fell into a slump after the incident. Once Russell and Lillard received their technicals, Portland outscored the Lakers 44-24 over the final 18 minutes.
“After the little incident or whatever with D-Lo and Dame, they ramped it up on us and we kind of fell back,” Jordan Clarkson said. “We’ve got to put our foot on the gas and turn it up when stuff happens like that.”
It was a contrast to how the Lakers reacted on Jan. 6, when they outscored Miami 51-32 after Clarkson and Goran Dragic were ejected in a similar situation.
“We just went the opposite way this time,” Clarkson said. “(Portland) turned it up.”
Despite the Lakers’ inability to swing back at the Blazers on Tuesday, Walton says he thinks “all the time” about how his players have to handle themselves at such a young age.
Walton, who turned pro when he was 23, said that he wouldn’t be able to approach this task as well as the 19- and 20-year-olds on his roster.
“Not as well as (Ivica Zubac) does, not as well as D’Angelo does, not as well as Brandon (Ingram) does,” Walton said. “I remind myself of that a lot because it’s the reality. They’re living in a world that’s really a lot of stress and pressure.
“They’re trying to handle responsibilities that most of us, including myself, could not handle. And I think they’re all doing a pretty good job of it.”