But Russell had a change of heart.
"Honestly, I knew that's what my grandmother would have wanted," Russell said about playing. "My dad, my brothers, everybody wanted me to play. I wanted to get away from basketball. I didn't want to express myself through basketball, but that's the only option I had. I tried to take advantage of it."
Russell's 3-pointer at the horn lifted the Lakers to a 110-109 victory over the Timberwolves at Staples Center.
Russell's game-winner allowed the Lakers (25-55) to win four in a row for the first time in four seasons. It also negated a 41-point performance by Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins and 40-point night for Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns also had a game-high 21 rebounds.
"We did talk this morning and originally he wasn't going to play," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "Then he texted me on the way to the arena saying he wanted to play. I said, 'Of course.'"
A dunk by Julius Randle with 32 seconds remaining pulled the Lakers within 109-107 and helped set up Russell's heroics. The Timberwolves had a chance to seal the win, but Ricky Rubio's layup was blocked by Larry Nance Jr. with 10.8 seconds remaining.
Russell raced up court and passed the ball to Metta World Peace, who misfired on a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining. However, Randle chased down the rebound and found Russell, who converted in front of Minnesota's bench.
"Obviously, the crowd was going crazy every time Metta touched the ball," Russell said of the Lakers' forward, who scored eight points in the fourth. "So I just went to give him the ball. At the end, I saw him in the corner. Missed the shot, Julius came up with the rebound and found me. By the grace of God, I made the shot."
Only six Minnesota players scored. Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad added 12 points apiece for the Timberwolves, who lost their four straight.
Rubio managed just two points, missing nine of the 10 shots he attempted. However, he had 11 assists.
"You hope to God that it doesn't go in, and the basketball gods weren't on our side," said Towns, who made 17 of 22 shots, regarding' Russell's bucket. "It was all off and then found its way to go back in, so he stepped up at the right moment."
Two free throws by Randle gave the Lakers a 103-101 edge with 2:30 remaining, but Wiggins countered with two foul shots to tie the score 12 seconds later. After a Los Angeles turnover, Towns muscled past Randle in the paint for a two-point Minnesota lead and followed it with a jumper for a 107-103 lead with 1:19 left
Clarkson's runner cut the margin to two with 53 seconds remaining, but Wiggins' layup boosted the Timberwolves to a four-point advantage with 33 seconds remaining.
"I'm just trying to win," said Wiggins, who scored 25 points in the second half.
Minnesota (31-49) used a 21-7 run to end the second quarter and close the Lakers' gap to 53-51 at the break. Towns scored 15 of his 25 first-half points in the period on 6-of-10 shooting. Towns and Wiggins (16 points) combined for 41 of the Timberwolves' first-half output.
In the third, Minnesota opened with a 9-0 surge for a 60-53 lead after a three-point play by Wiggins four minutes into the quarter. However, the Lakers rallied. The two teams exchanged buckets during the final minutes of the quarter before the Timberwolves grabbed a 79-78 lead heading into the final period.
The win allowed the Lakers to remain 1 1/2 games ahead of the Phoenix Suns for the worst mark in the Western Conference.
NOTES: This was the third meeting between the two clubs since March 24. Both coaches believed the familiarity helped enhance the intensity. "You're more familiar with the sets and there's nothing really new that needs to be talked about other than what we can do well from the last time," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "It's obviously not like a playoff series, but it's like that when you get into game three or four and every play that's being called you know what it is and makes it a lot more challenging, which is fun." ... Both teams resume play Tuesday. The Timberwolves host the Oklahoma City Thunder, while the Lakers play the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center.