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THE GAME: D’Angelo Russell returns to LA as Nets face Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Three the hard way. The Brooklyn Nets were home on Halloween night trying to get back on track after two straight blowout losses. They fought hard, but ultimately fell short to the Phoenix Suns by eight points. This is the first night of a five game road trip.

The opponent tonight will be the Los Angeles Lakers. Although management's eyes are focused on this summer's crop of free agents, Luke Walton and his team have a lot to play for. This is the second night of a back-to-back for the purple and gold. They lost to the Trailblazers in Portland last night thanks to a Damian Lillard game winner.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Late night tip so we're starting at 10:30.


Jarrett Allen didn't play on Tuesday due to a left foot strain and is questionable for tonight's game. Quincy Acy is out again.

Larry Nance Jr broke a bone in his left hand Thursday night and will be out indefinitely.

The game

First things first, It’s D’Angelo Russell’s first game back in L.A. since the Nets traded Brook Lopez and the rights to Kyle Kuzma for him and Timofey Mozgov. After saying over the summer that he had circled the date, Russell’s now in the “just-another-game” mode.

“First game on this long road trip,” Russell said, right before the Nets departed for the West Coast. “Hopefully we can get a win.”

Yeah, right, it’s just another game. His former backcourt mate Jordan Clarkson thinks he knows what Russell is feeling.

“Oh he’s going to be fired up,” Clarkson said. “He’ll try to go for, 30? 40? I don’t know how many shots he’s gonna put up. He’s gonna come in here, he’s gonna try to get a win for sure. He’s definitely going to put them up. He’s going to try to win the game.”

And make Magic Johnson realize he made a mistake.

Julius Randle also spoke to Russell. He said the guard is “excited” about his new team. “He kind of got a fresh start,” Randle said. “He still was in a major city in Brooklyn, New York. He’s obviously doing very well. [Russell will be] extremely fired up,” Randle added. “Who wouldn’t be?”

Of course, there’s the other side of the trade. It still feels so weird to see Lopez in a Lakers jersey. It's been a rough transition for the big guy in his new home, although he did score 27 against the Blazers in his best game this season. He's been shooting further away from the basket and as a result he's shooting a career low from the field and is getting to the free throw line at the second lowest rate of his career.

It's still early so we'll have a better idea of how Lopez fits in with LA when he returns to Brooklyn in February. In the meantime, he'll have the advantage against an injury depleted Brooklyn frontcourt.

You know, I had completely forgotten that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was on the Lakers. The swingman was hoping for a big contract last summer, but the Pistons trade for Avery Bradley and restricted free agency ruined his dreams. He wound up signing with the Lakers on a one year, $18 million contract. His shot hasn’t come West with him, but he was brought in for his defensive prowess and so far he’s lived up to expectations. He’ll be assigned to Caris Levert and Allen Crabbe tonight. The duo have gone cold during Brooklyn’s three game losing streak

We'll get to watch two left handed power forwards do their thing tonight. Rondae Hollis Jefferson has steadily improved each game and is one of Kenny Atkinson’s most reliable players. He’s a bit undersized for the four spot, but he makes do with what he has and provides Atkinson with a lot of flexibility. On the other side, we’ll get to see Julius Randle. Now that Nance is out, Randle figures to return to the starting lineup.

With the exception of Zach Lowe, it seems as if everyone has given up on him. However, the three year (it’s really four years, but he broke his leg like five minutes into his NBA debut so I’m not counting that season) man from Kentucky still has a lot of positive attributes and can be useful for Walton.

We'll get our first opportunity to see one of the best rookies in the league this season. No, not that other rookie (more on him in a bit), we're talking about Kyle Kuzma! Kuzma wowed league observers in summer league and has carried it over to the real games. Kuzma is averaging 15 points a night and is coming off a career high 22 points last night. Also, he's a Can't Go Back All Star so that makes me like him even more.

Player to watch: Lonzo Ball

For a person who's had people gunning for him all year, he's handled himself quite well. Lonzo has managed the media hype well and doesn't let outside influences distract him. On the court, there's a lot of room for improvement. He's got a 32.6/27.8/55.6 shooting split and defenses are daring him to beat them with his jumper. He went scoreless last night and said in the postgame that he needed to be more aggressive. Rookies tend to be bad, so don't worry about some janky numbers. He'll be fine in the long run.

On the other side will be the man Lonzo replaced. One of the reasons LA gave to the media when asked why they traded Russell was a lack of leadership by DLo. Here's Magic Johnson from late June when the Lakers introduced Ball...

"He has the talent to be an All-Star. We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader. I needed somebody also that can make the other players better and also [somebody] that players want to play with."

With that as the backdrop, Russell comes back to town with a lot to prove. He's getting plenty of buckets, but there's still a bit of a feeling-out process as he gets fully acclimated to Atkinson's offense (and defense).

On a related note, I wonder how Lakers fans will receive DLo during introductions. I'm guessing he'll be cheered, but you never know with these kind of things.

From the Vault

This was a hell of a way for DLo to end his time as a Laker.

More reading: Silver Screen and Roll