D'Angelo Russell Shrugs Off Darvin Ham's Pep Talk Despite Bounce Back

Lakers Rally to Secure Crucial Victory in Game 4.

by Faizan Chaudhary
D'Angelo Russell Shrugs Off Darvin Ham's Pep Talk Despite Bounce Back
© Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

From the very brink of elimination in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, the Los Angeles Lakers truly were. Pre-game, head coach Darvin Ham's message was roaring, designed to rekindle those fires—and it worked as the Lakers sprinted to a series-saving 119-108 win against the defending champions.

Guard D'Angelo Russell has clearly been a huge part of that change. The confidence booster by Ham worked and Russell literally oozed with a cool confidence and self-dependence in his mannerisms. "I believe in myself more than anybody," Russell said after the game.

"I don't need that, but I appreciate it," he added, citing the pep talk and asserting his self-assurance.

Russell's Impactful Performance

Russell came up big with 21 points in the contest, going 8-15 from the floor and hitting 4-8 from beyond the arc.

His biggest contributions came at the other end, where his inspired play would help make sure that the Nuggets would leave with only 108 on the board. Coach Ham had told Russell before the game to step up his intensity and focus.

After the win, he was raving about how much more focused the team was, the offensive chess match, and strong defensive play. He was also giving credit to Russell and Austin Reaves for performances that propelled the Lakers.

That being said, Ham has a feeling that the series will push through to a Game 7, banking on his team's character not to give in. The win at Denver will have a significant impact in breathing life into the Lakers' fan base and shaping the importance of Ham at the helm as they travel into Game 5 fighting to stave off elimination.

And then there is the considerable buzz around the status of D'Angelo Russell as a player for the Lakers. According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, Russell is expected to opt out and become a free agent this summer. He has one year left on his two-year deal with the Lakers that solidified a dependable pairing in the backcourt for LeBron James last offseason.

Russell put up 18.0 points and 3.3 assists per game this season, shooting 46% on twos and 36.9% from three. Russell's tenure in Los Angeles will only be in further jeopardy as the playoffs extend. A deep run in the playoffs will only raise his market value that much more, possibly pushing him into the realm of a high-priced free-agent target this summer.