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Struggling D'Angelo Russell gets the message: 'Be aggressive'

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Luke Walton keeping faith in his players despite mounting losses (1:35)

The Lakers are stocked with young, highly drafted players but will once again finish a season at the bottom of the Western Conference. Despite suffering through a losing season, coach Luke Walton is confident his team will find a way to right the ship. (1:35)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- One by one, Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka called over nearly every member of the team's roster after practice Thursday to discuss each player's individual goals for the rest of the season.

While the meetings were happening at one end of the gym, second-year guard D'Angelo Russell sat in the bleachers at the other end with associate head coach Brian Shaw, engaging in what looked like a deep conversation that lasted about 20 minutes.

After Johnson and Pelinka made their rounds, Russell was the last player remaining. Johnson and Pelinka walked over to him, and the trio huddled along the wall of the Toyota Sports Center to discuss Russell's recent struggles and demotion to the bench as well as what's needed from him for the rest of the season.

"It was just more of clearing up a little bit of things," Russell said at shootaround ahead of Friday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks, "as far as what they want to see from these last few games and stuff like that."

And what exactly are Johnson and Pelinka looking for?

"Be aggressive," Russell said. "No matter what my role is, just be aggressive."

As for his long conversation with Shaw, Russell said the message was identical: "The same thing. It was the same."

Lakers head coach Luke Walton moved Russell to the bench for the first time this season on Monday, opting to start Jordan Clarkson at point guard over the past two games. Since the demotion -- which happened, in part, to evaluate Clarkson's ability as a floor general -- Russell has struggled considerably, averaging 7.5 points (on 25 percent shooting and 18.2 percent 3-point shooting), 2.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 4.5 turnovers in 26.7 minutes per game. The results have disappointed both Walton and Russell.

"Of course I want him to respond better," Walton said at shootaround. "I want him to be aggressive. I want him to be really aggressive, even more so right now while he's coming off the bench. That doesn't mean he's coming in to shoot every time. But aggressive as far as pushing the ball, getting in the lane, and every time he's coming off of picks and playmaking as a way to get himself more into the game quicker.

"It's completely different when you start and naturally fall into the rhythm of the game. So we're looking for him to come out and be ultra-aggressive in that role while he's in it."

Russell disagrees with the notion that he hasn't been aggressive enough lately, but he's open to feedback.

"I think I was, I guess my mentality wasn't in the right place," Russell said. "I wasn't really making shots. I didn't create for others, either.

"It's just new, being in the position I was in, finding the openings. [They] are all in foreign positions for me."

Russell wears his emotions on his sleeve, and his body language after both games since the change made it clear he has been upset with his uncharacteristic play and with coming off the bench. Still, Walton claims Russell hasn't been a distraction in the locker room or at practice.

"I'm sure there's frustration," Walton said. "But he's been good and he's been getting his work in before practice and still getting it in now. There's no pouting or no bad behavior or anything like that."

After the meeting with Johnson and Pelinka, Russell says he feels more confident with the thought of playing more shooting guard, and with more time and reps, he thinks he can eventually adjust.

"It's different," Russell said. "It's really different. Picking and choosing my spots as far as creating and getting shots. Just being the 2-guard alone is different.

"I'm not used to it. If I was used to it, it'd be easier."

Walton has hinted at possible lineup changes ahead of Friday's game against Milwaukee after the Denver Nuggets and the Houston Rockets crushed the Lakers by 28 points and 39 points, respectively, in the Lakers' previous two games, but he wouldn't reveal who would start alongside Clarkson.

"Do we want [David Nwaba's] defense out there?" Walton said. "Do we want [Nick Young's] traditional shooting guard out there? Do we want D'Angelo so we can see him in a starting group with him and JC? Those are the three major [factors]."

At this point, Russell says he isn't concerned with whether he starts, or which position he's asked to play. He just wants to play.

"It doesn't matter," Russell said. "Just on the floor."