D'Angelo Russell Illness: Updates on Lakers Star's Status and Return

Scott PolacekFeatured Columnist

AUBURN HILLS, MI - DECEMBER 6: D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball during the game against the Detroit Pistons on December 6, 2015 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by B. Sevald/Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
B. Sevald/Einstein/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell is dealing with a sore throat and did not play Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors. It's unclear if he'll be ready to play against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.

Continue for updates.

Latest on Russell's Playing Status

Wednesday, Jan. 6

Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com reported Russell is probable for Thursday's game.

Lakers Can't Afford to Lose Russell's Playmaking

Losing Russell for a significant time would be a difficult blow for the Lakers because he is a young playmaker who represents the future after a disappointing stretch of seasons for the franchise. Fortunately, this is an illness rather than a serious injury. 

Los Angeles made Russell the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, and many assumed he would be the eventual heir to Kobe Bryant’s throne as the face of the franchise. He hasn't lived up to those elevated expectations in his rookie campaign with 11.6 points and 3.4 assists per game, but there is plenty of time to develop.

At his best, Russell is a wizard with the ball in his hands and can make defenders look foolish with a deceptively quick first step and an electrifying array of passes. He is also a sharpshooter from three-point range and can take some of the offensive pressure off Bryant in his 20th season.

The future will have to be put on hold until Russell returns, but starter Jordan Clarkson is capable of carrying more of the point guard load. Clarkson was a first-team All-Rookie performer last season with 11.9 points and 3.5 assists per game and is a physical force at the position at 6’5”. He also has a bright future ahead of him and should have the opportunity for more minutes following Russell's setback.

Another option is Louis Williams, a veteran in his 11th season. Williams is versatile enough to play shooting guard or point guard and scored a career-high 15.5 points per game last season for the Toronto Raptors. He is a consistent threat from beyond the three-point line and an experienced player who understands what it takes to step up for injured contributors.

While the Lakers have the pieces to cover for Russell’s absence, they need him to be back on the court so he can continue to develop as one of the main cogs in the franchise’s rebuilding efforts.