It’s Just a Matter of Time Until D’Angelo Russell Becomes Great

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

It’s Just a Matter of Time Until D’Angelo Russell Becomes Great

 

The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t had an outspoken rookie who embraces the spotlight since Earvin “Magic” Johnson bursted onto the scene in 1979. The day they drafted a young, skillful guard out of Ohio State, that had all changed.

Taken with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, D’Angelo Russell was the formula the Los Angeles Lakers needed. Starving to find a young player to fill Kobe Bryant’s shoes after his magnificent final season had concluded, Russell seemed panned out to be Los Angeles’ new star. The NBA world had a great deal of expectations for the rookie, and he lived up to the hype. Game after game–with Kobe Bryant by his side teaching him the tricks of the trade–he quickly matured and improved tremendously. Other than some inconsistent play and the media frenzy that occurred after Russell filmed teammate Nick Young admitting he cheated on his then-fiancee Iggy Azalea, his rookie campaign went extremely well.

All season, the 20-year-old graced the court with the swagger of a reigning MVP. His confidence level was sky high, and looked to be having tons of fun alongside his Los Angeles Lakers teammates on, and off the floor. The most impressive game of Russell’s rookie season came on March 1, 2016, where he set a career high with 39 points and eight made three-pointers against the Brooklyn Nets. His 39 points were the most by a rookie in 2015-16, and the most by a Los Angeles Lakers rookie in a regular season game since Elgin Baylor’s 55 points in 1959. Russell’s ability to slice through the lane, score off the pick-and-roll, dish the rock, and knock down three-point shots at ease makes him a threat each time down the floor. He finished the 2015-16 season leading the Lakers and all rookies in steals per game, and became the youngest player to hit 130 three-pointers in a season. He deservingly earned NBA All-Rookie Second Team honors.

Heading into the 2016-17 season, D’Angelo Russell is as hungry as ever. He’s proven it by spending countless hours in the gym–whether on the court or in the weight room–all offseason long. At 6-foot-5, 195 pounds, Russell knows he must get stronger to take his skills to the next level.

New Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton has stated that Russell has asked numerous questions about back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry’s step to greatness over the past few years, and how he could replicate it. Walton–a Golden State Warriors assistant coach from 2014-2016–spent everyday with Curry, and was happy to share some tips about the Warriors point guard with the young rookie. After dropping 33 points on 13-of-19 shooting in Los Angeles’ preseason win against Denver on October 10, 2016, Russell told reporters he over his childish acts, and ready to start the 2016-17 season strong.

“It’s preseason, but I told myself going into this year, everything is going to have a business-like approach to it,” he said. “Every weight I lift, every practice, every shot I shoot, it’s going to have a business-like approach instead of a 19-year-old-kid approach to it. I know what I want to be in this league and I just want to keep working to be there.”

 

Take a step back and imagine the amount of pressure the young buck had to overcome each time running up and down the floor of Staples Center. Thousands of fans staring down at you, to go with a star studded crowd observing your every move. Oh, and don’t forget trying to impressive long-time Lakers diehard and celebrity, Jack Nicholson. Making a name for yourself in the league is hard enough, becoming a fan favorite in Los Angeles is burdensome. They say you live and you learn; Russell’s humbleness since the Nick Young fiasco proves he’s doing just that. He knows he was wrong, and will use his words and skills to win back fans one-by-one.

With D’Angelo Russell quickly becoming a star, and the young core of Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance Jr. blossoming, Los Angeles will be on the cusp of playoff contention very soon. Russell’s potential is off-the-charts; his passion for the game is relentless.

The 2016-17 season will be a year to remember for D’Angelo Russell.

 

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