Darvin Ham's troubling D'Angelo Russell comments are frustrating for Lakers fans

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets - Game One
Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets - Game One / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers dropped Game 1 of the team's first-round series against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night in large part due to D'Angelo Russell's poor play. Russell shot 1-9 from three, 6-20 from the field and looked like a shell of his regular-season self.

Russell's poor showing truly was the difference in this game where the Lakers looked like a better team at points. If Russell goes 4-9 from three and makes the blown lay-up that he missed it would have been an 11-point swing for LA. The Lakers lost by 11.

With how poorly Russell was playing, many Lakers fans were calling for the team to go to one of the team's other guards. After all, this was more than just one bad game for Russell, as he struggled mightily in this exact same matchup last year in the Western Conference Finals.

That thought never seemed to cross head coach Darvin Ham's mind. Russell played 41 minutes (second on the team) and took more shots than anyone not named Anthony Davis. When asked about whether or not he considered pulling Russell after the game, Ham gave a rather frustrating runaround answer.

Darvin Ham's explanation for not sitting D'Angelo Russell is outrageous for Lakers fans

From a 10,000-foot perspective, Ham's comments might not seem too bad. After all, everyone has an off night in the NBA and to punish every single player every time they have an off night would be asinine.

That being said, there are multiple factors here that Ham is outright ignoring. Russell struggled against the Nuggets last year so this was more than just a one-game sample size. Plus, it is not like Russell is a superstar who is always consistent like LeBron James or Anthony Davis. He has not earned the right to get penciled-in for 41 minutes even when he is playing poorly.

The worst part of this answer, though, is the deeper ramifications it has about Russell. Sitting a cold player down in a playoff game is not "bailing" on that player. It is putting the team in the best position to succeed on that specific night.

The problem is that Russell would probably have reacted terribly to this. After all, there were reports in the playoffs last year that the Lakers were worried about benching Russell due to the fear of "losing him".

So this team was worried that if Russell was benched at all he would quit on the team? That is not the attribute of a winning player and makes Ham's comments even worse. Ham didn't want to sit Russell in key spots because then he would be "bailing" on him. If any player thinks his coach is bailing on him simply for sitting him while he is struggling then that says more about the player than the team.

But hey, at least Gabe Vincent got eight minutes after he excelled against the New Orleans Pelicans in the play-in! Doesn't seem like he is worried about being bailed on.