“The reaction to losing is something Walton monitors,” Tania Ganguli wrote for the Los Angeles Times after the team’s loss to the New York Knicks. “He said the danger lies in two places. A team can become OK with losing. Or players might start trying to fix the issues by themselves. He said he hasn’t seen that happening yet.”
Here are two updates to keep in mind as Walton matches wits with another first-year head coach, Kenny Atkinson.
D'Angelo Russell's minutes could increase
After averaging 16.8 points, 4.7 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 42.3 percent from the field in his first 12 games of the year, second-year point guard D'Angelo Russell missed three weeks with a knee injury.
On Nov. 23, Russell received a platelet-rich plasma injection:
The Lakers went 3-9 without him. On Sunday, Russell returned to the starting lineup but played just 16 minutes and shot 1-of-8 from the field in a 118-112 loss to the Knicks. He turned the ball over four times.
A day later, the 20-year-old saw an uptick in minutes and looked more like his normal, sweet-shooting self. In just less than 20 minutes (19:43), Russell went 6-of-10 for 17 points and four assists. The Sacramento Kings blew out Los Angeles 116-92, and Russell was the only Laker with a positive plus/minus (plus-five).
According to the Los Angeles Times, the southpaw—as well as shooting guard Nick Young, who is recovering from a calf injury—wanted to play more. That's a positive sign for L.A.
While Walton didn’t give a specific number heading into Wednesday, Serena Winters of Lakers Nation reported that Russell expects to have his playing time capped for a few games:
Per Spectrum SportsNet’s Mike Trudell, Russell isn’t thinking about his left knee while he's on the floor:
Assuming Russell has experienced no setbacks since L.A. fell to the Kings, Wednesday’s game in Brooklyn could offer the most minutes he’s seen since the injury. While his pre-injury average of 27.1 minutes might be a bit lofty, somewhere in the neighborhood of 23 seems reasonable.
Team not staying in Trump hotel
According to Mark Medina of the Orange County Register, the Lakers will not stay in a hotel affiliated with President-elect Donald Trump prior to Wednesday's game against the Nets, as originally planned.
The reasons are not political, per Medina:
[T]he Lakers said the reasons have nothing to do with any political statement surrounding the president-elect. The Lakers cited security concerns for the team amid potential protests near the hotel.
Since Trump was elected, there have been several demonstrations near his various branded hotels in New York City both from his supporters and those protesting the election result.
The initial plan was to stay in Trump SoHo in Lower Manhattan. Medina added that “potential protests also could have disrupted the Lakers' efforts in traveling to and from the Barclays Center for Wednesday's game.”
The Lakers made it clear this is not intended to be a political statement. Conversely, LeBron James and several other Cleveland Cavaliers boycotted Trump SoHo for political reasons prior to beating up on the Knicks last week.