D'Angelo Russell is comfortable being assertive, which Warriors require

Monte Poole
NBC Sports BayArea

SAN FRANCISCO -- Diving into his first opportunity to run the show of the team formerly known as the Super Villains of the NBA, D'Angelo Russell launched 24 shots in 33 minutes.

He made nine.

In terms of shooting percentage, this is awful: 37.5.

In terms of endeavor, this will be necessary.

With Stephen Curry following Klay Thompson to the trainer's room and both as unavailable to the Warriors as Kevin Durant, Russell is licensed to shoot most any time he has a decent shot. In a 127-110 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night, he took full advantage, finishing with a team-high 30 points.

"I've never really concerned myself too much with how many shots a guy takes," coach Steve Kerr said. "If they're good shots, that's great. He might have taken a couple that I wasn't thrilled with. But he's also a guy who I'm going to give a lot of leash to, because he can get hot in a hurry.

"He's a player who has proven he can make a lot of plays. And it's been my experience with this team that, guys like that, you let them take a couple bad ones."

That last statement was an open reference to Curry and Thompson, neither of whom hesitates before pulling up from 30 feet, regardless of whether a teammate is in position to rebound. This comes from supreme confidence and it has served the Warriors well.

Russell, however, is not in the same class as a pure shooter. He's more of a natural scorer, deliberate in his actions, navigating his way toward a bucket.

Yet he has to be a primary gunner.

"He played really well," Draymond Green said of Russell, who also recorded eight assists. "He did a great job playmaking, and also did a really good job scoring the ball as well.

"We will continue to need him to bring that to the table, and guys fill in where they have to."

Russell, who was receiving treatment after the game, averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists last season in Brooklyn, leading the Nets in both categories. It vaulted him onto the Eastern Conference All-Star team as a replacement for injured Pacers star Victor Oladipo.

It also was enough to pique the interest of the Warriors once Durant headed for the Nets. Russell is young, 23, but showing signs of maturity with plenty of room to grow. That made him attractive to pair with Curry.

Except there is no Curry, and he won't be back until February at the soonest.

So the team already is adjusting its offense to suit Russell's strength, which is pick-and-roll action. His patience and ball-handling, along with his shot/pass proficiency, make him ideal for that strategy.

"He's tough to guard in that high screen," Kerr said. "And, obviously, without Steph he had the ball in his hands pretty much the whole time he was out there."

It's not typical of the way of the Warriors, who forged their greatness through movement, ball distribution and defense. Russell is challenged, to some level, in all three areas.

[RELATED: Steph battling arch enemy once again after hand surgery]

Kerr seems to understand that, if not accept it. He knows Russell's defense will be a season-long topic of discussion, but is confident his offense is capable of delivering what is needed.

"But the point of all the execution and the offense is to try to get the best possible shot," Kerr said. "And I didn't think we always got that tonight. So, we'll look at that and try to continue to improve."

It'll be up to Russell to lead the way. He has the skills. He clearly has the desire. And he already seems comfortable with being the man orchestrating the action.

D'Angelo Russell is comfortable being assertive, which Warriors require originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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