D'Angelo Russell Will Be A Star Whether You Like It Or Not ( Ding Piece)

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  1. therealdeal

    therealdeal Moderator Staff Member

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    Like Him or Loathe Him, D'Angelo Russell Will Be a Star, and He'll Tell You Why

    By Kevin Ding, NBA Senior Writer Mar 15, 2016
    NBA after just one year. But after a season that saw him average 19.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists as a freshman, he skyrocketed toward the top of the lottery, where he was selected second overall by the Lakers, for whom he is now injecting hope for a return to glory.

    The Lakers fell for him because of his game but also because of that alpha-male personality.

    Russell's sharp edge, that chip on his shoulder—and yes, that ice in his veins—was undeniably reminiscent of their outgoing legend, Kobe Bryant.





    But Russell isn't Kobe, and he doesn't want to be. As much as he respects Bryant and his work ethic, and even enjoys the comfort of his signature shoes, Russell doesn't want to follow in anyone's footsteps.

    On his own ground, he knows he'll walk taller.

    "I don't want people to just think, 'He's got some Kobe-like [characteristics]," Russell said. "I don't want to go there. I want to be me—and people know it's me.

    "I don't want: 'He's trying to act like Kobe' or 'His answers are like something Kobe would've said.' Nah. If it's me, I'm going to say it."

    An underlying storyline this season in Los Angeles has been about the disconnect between coach Byron Scott and his rookie point guard, whose minutes and role have fluctuated greatly. It is Scott's belief that Russell's improvement has resulted from a tremendous increase in confidence over the course of the season.

    That's not it at all.

    "I always had the confidence," Russell said. "The platform, guys getting injured and giving me multiple opportunities, that has allowed me to showcase it."

    Russell acknowledges he could've gotten better sooner in his rookie season.

    "Just came in, thought it was going to be easy, everything was going to be sweet," he said. "Had to handle some adversity and tried to handle it the right way."



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    Juan Ocampo/Getty Images


    He did the same in high school when he got to Montverde Academy in central Florida and didn't play because the coaches didn't see enough aggressiveness. He didn't like it, but he accepted it—and he changed those opinions soon enough when given the chance.

    It prepared Russell for what it's like to start slow—and showed him how rewarding it is both to learn and shut critics up.

    In the first 10 games since Scott put him back in the starting lineup last month, Russell averaged 21.0 points, 4.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals while shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 46.3 percent from three-point range. The Lakers even won three of those games, shocking the Golden State Warriors along the way.

    "It's all opportunity," he said.

    He's proud of not losing his cool even though he was quite unhappy with how some things were—or weren't—developing.

    "I didn't really get caught up in the media standpoint," Russell said of how Scott has deployed him this season. "I don't really have too much to say on that. I just kept playing and kept trying to better myself and get better on my own. If that was holding me back, I didn't get caught up in it.

    "I know my work ethic and know what I've put in to get where I'm at," Russell said. "So if the outcome is good or bad, I know deep down that I've put in the work. Confidence is always going to be there."

    Russell's 27.8 minutes per game are distinctly fewer than fellow rookies Emmanuel Mudiay (30.4) and Karl-Anthony Towns (31.1). Tough-love talk aside, Scott's plan was not to hinder Russell's progress but to protect a sometimes tentative Russell from more initial failure than Scott thought would have been healthy for him.



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    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images


    That theory, however, rests on the questionable premise that giving Russell more opportunity to succeed would've given the Lakers less opportunity to succeed.

    Russell's complex basketball style—akin to playing music in between notes while incorporating others' instruments—required more repetitions to reach the comfort level he has displayed in recent weeks.

    Remember, it was Russell's command in orchestrating a group to be its best self that the Lakers brass saw before the draft as his most special gift.

    "It's tough coming in here and losing a lot," Russell said. "It's hard to keep a positive attitude coming to work every day, feeling like you're getting better when the same result is losing...

    "Now, we're not winning—but we're playing better. ... We're giving ourselves the opportunity to win. ... Before, we were turning the ball over; everybody was trying to score every night, stuff like that. So we weren't giving ourselves the opportunity."

    There's that word again: opportunity.

    Someone with Russell's mindset just doesn't take those chances, and his chance to run the team, for granted.

    It's not like he's humbled now. He was hungry before, during and after his role was reduced.

    "I knew that I was capable of it," he said. "I've watched people dominate at this level. It's all mental, you know what I'm sayin'? I feel like I had that. Experience will help it pan out a little better. But it's all mental."



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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images


    The nameplate for Shaquille O'Neal's Lakers locker back in the day didn't say, "O'NEAL."

    It said: "IDGAF."

    I Don't Give A F--k.

    (For the protection of children, O'Neal would in times of need opt to define the acronym as: "I Dominate Games Always Forever.")

    Bryant drove the Lakers' past two championships, O'Neal the three before that. It only makes sense that the franchise would be drawn to a newcomer whose unswerving confidence in himself overrides all else, someone who straddles that line between confident and cocky.

    On TNT Thursday, O'Neal mentioned Bryant and offered Russell that ultimate compliment: "He's wired like us."

    Because of that mindset, O'Neal said, Russell isn't altogether satisfied taking a backseat to Bryant now but knows his time is coming.

    Bryant has been a valuable resource for Russell this season—specifically a Sunday morning private video session Bryant suggested for a struggling Russell less than a week into the season and recently sharing detailed guidelines for the 6'5" point guard to develop a post-up game.

    Bryant was insatiably curious to explore all he could become withoutO'Neal 12 years ago. Though Russell has not offered even a hint of frustration with Bryant this season, that doesn't mean the rookie isn't looking forward to pushing his limits without him the same way Bryant once insisted on.

    "I feel like you could be playing your best basketball...and then you start doing stuff you've never done before," Russell said. "And you only get better.



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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press


    "I don't think I would ever have the opportunity to play well if I came in thinking that I would never be able to dominate."

    For now, Russell pushes the envelope and his opportunities as far as the Kobe farewell tour allows, particularly when Bryant's chronically sore right shoulder encourages it.

    The resolution of Russell's I'm-a-star image is becoming clear despite all that early ineffectiveness. Before the All-Star break, Russell shot 41.5 percent and 33.5 percent from the three-point line. After the break: an uptick to 45.8 percent shooting and a near-identical 45.7 mark from three. The optics have changed to where we can see how the divine one-motion jump shot, inventive ball-handling and astute movement without the ball are at least comparable to Stephen Curry.

    Such versatility makes it easier for players to fit around Russell, just what he envisions the Lakers will do.

    "I'd rather be a player that a franchise is being built around, and it's a successful build," he said. "Winning playoff games, knowing that we're one of the teams that's going to win, knowing that when you play against the Lakers you've got to worry about losing. Not like right now."

    With the league's second-worst record, the Lakers are in position to add another young talent if they keep their 2016 first-round pick (top-three protected from going to Philadelphia). They might well get Ben Simmons, Russell's former Montverde teammate; the Philadelphia 76ers could prefer Brandon Ingram's shooting anyway.



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    Kelly Kline/Getty Images


    "We're real close friends," Russell said of Simmons. "[When we talk] it's obvious: 'Oh, man, I hope you come here.' It's obvious. But we talk about a lot of other things."

    Simmons is 6'10" and a fascinating blend of preternatural basketball instincts. What he is not is the alpha male Russell is.

    An uncompromising, cold-blooded attitude doesn't dictate who will be the better player, but the Lakers have learned over the years to believe in the higher standards that come with such strong will. That spirit of self is evident throughout an Instagram account to which Russell regularly posts blank whiteness because he likes the innovative design it creates on his personal page, no matter how annoying or pointless others view it to be.

    Russell delivers his confident quotes in calm tones with no spectacle. He is utterly relaxed as he evaluates what has gone right and wrong...and what is going to go right again. He is matter-of-fact as he shares his disdain for others' opinions, too.

    When asked how much he cares what people outside the game think of him, Russell just shakes his head and says: "Nah."

    Whether someone such as Russell comes across as overly cocky or dynamically inspirational often depends on how secure the person is doing the observing.

    Even more often, it's about how hard that self-assured person works to become all that he expects to be. If you earn it, it's only natural to have a healthy ego.

    Russell gets it.

    And it's going to be fascinating to watch someone already so strong grow even stronger.
     

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  2. lakerjones

    lakerjones Moderator Staff Member

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    Good stuff. Affirms what I felt and said a week or so ago, that the Alpha for the future has emerged from our young core. I honestly thought it was going to be Julius, but it's clearly DLO. I'm thrilled with all of our young core - DLO, Jordan, Julius and Larry Jr. Mitch and company have done a pretty great job drafting.
     
  3. therealdeal

    therealdeal Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm with you.

    I said a while ago that I think the personalities of our young guys mesh well and I stand by that now towards the end of the season. I think you're right D'Angelo came in and he's clearly got that next level personality and vision for the future. Julius has the DESIRE to be that guy which is a good sign in itself. It means he'll work his butt of to be D'Angelo's equal which will make both of them better. Meanwhile Jordan is nothing if not hard work personified and he's got the perfect mellowness about him to keep everything running smoothly. Larry Nance Jr. is quickly making his way into that conversation as well as another person who can keep everyone's heads pointed in the right direction.

    There's just so much to be said about a team that likes each other, gets along, and wants to be great. They may never get there, but I think most fans would be shocked at the number of NBA guys that don't care all that much. We were shocked when Bynum kind of revealed basketball isn't everything to him (in fact it was low on his list), but he's far from the only one who thinks like that. Having three or four guys who want to be great... that's a treat.

    And D'Angelo I think can lead us forward. His play recently has really let me not worry about the tank or even about FA as much. I believe wholeheartedly that we'll improve over the next two summers with or without big additions and that'll be on the backs of our young core.
     
  4. sirronstuff

    sirronstuff LB Facebook Editor

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    Just need a coach
    Get rid of the roach
     
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  5. LTLakerFan

    LTLakerFan - Lakers MVP -

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    Before I even read this 2 things caught my eye up near the top. 1. " ....or Loathe Him?" WTF. Where at this point in his career would anyone have any reason to loathe him or even ask the question in the title? Ding. 2. The top photo of Boron with his hands on Russell talking to him. After what Scott has done to his rookie season I'm sure DAR is loving that. OK now to read Ding's article.



    OK a real nice article. More intelligent points made about the fallacies of Boron looking at things the way he does only from his way of thinking and making false assumptions and bad coaching decisions because of it, certainly with Russell being able to handle the league and was on his way to solid play by Christmas. No need to worry about this kid's head.

    He's a breath of fresh air so far in interviews and it's to be admired he wants only to be the 1st DAR, not modeled after anyone else's game. Oh hell yeah though with Kobe giving him all his masters techniques to begin to develop his back to the basket game. First thing you notice is he is aggressively banging hard and making space just like Kobe. And loved Shaq's compliment, "he's wired like us" (him and Kobe)

    Definitely no reason though for "Loathe" to be in the title logically. :KobeConfused:
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2016
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  6. Weezy

    Weezy Moderator Staff Member

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    I didn't see anything in the actual article about "loathing" him. I assume it's a nod to Kobe and that's how people feel about him and Russ will be our next star to follow Kobe, yet he says himself he isn't Kobe. The only one I can imagine that loathes Russ is B0ron.
     
  7. therealdeal

    therealdeal Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm guessing as D'Angelo gains popularity after Kobe's retirement, there'll be plenty of people who dislike his cockiness.

    Not to mention older Lakers like Thompson, Byron, and AC Green who've been unsupportive of him even though they played with one of the cockiest players ever.
     
  8. gcclaker

    gcclaker Moderator Staff Member

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    Russell doesn't have the hell bent for domination spirit that 24 has...at least on the surface. Still waters run deep. I like his mostly icy demeanor and that he wants to establish his own identity.

    As far as the Loathe Him part of the article. 24 was thought of the same way. We all know how that turned out. Talented guards, the Walls, the Irvings IMO are commonplace compared to a solid big man but the few that transcend the game are special. Russell could be just that...
     
  9. revgen

    revgen - Lakers 6th Man -

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    Liking basketball is not a prerequisite for having success. Just ask Curtis Martin.

    What's more important is oncourt chemistry. The kids personalities work well together, and I look forward to seeing them grow under a better coach.
     
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  10. therealdeal

    therealdeal Moderator Staff Member

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    That's not really what I meant. I'm saying these three (maybe four) are the kind of kids who enjoy the game and each other. They're going to be the type to put in the work and grow. There are plenty of NBA players that don't have the focus or desire to be great. Our young core doesn't seem like that type.
     
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  11. revgen

    revgen - Lakers 6th Man -

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    I do agree that our young guys put in the effort, at least on offense anyway. Hopefully, they improve on the other side of the court. A better coach can help.
     
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  12. therealdeal

    therealdeal Moderator Staff Member

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    Part of why I want Thibs. Oh boy he'd get these kids playing real defense.
     
  13. LTLakerFan

    LTLakerFan - Lakers MVP -

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    Let's hope there is NO downer of the decade announcement prior to all of this inspired summer work and going forward, that Scott the a-hole is coming back to coach. Sure they are wired to work hard, but then they're human too and the thought of Scott coming back would be counter productive to running through walls for the team.
     
  14. gcclaker

    gcclaker Moderator Staff Member

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    Also, I would believe he has learned from his past handling of players to where he knows how to manage their minutes and keep them fresh. Get a very credible assistant that can implement a system on offense to take care of that side and we're good to go.
     
  15. Savory Griddles

    Savory Griddles - Lakers Starter -

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  16. D-Fish Man

    D-Fish Man - Rookie -

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    I don't think there's any comparison between Kobe and Russell, in terms of their outward personas. Yeah, they're both confident and with that comes some cockiness, but Russell seems like an otherwise warm, friendly guy who enjoys the game. Kobe, god bless him and the five championships he brought us, was a humorless, unlovable basketball psychopath. I have never seen drive, resilience or competitiveness like that in my life. He was like the terminator, so much so that it was hard to like him, on a personal level. I don't feel that at all with Russell. I see a driven confident player but I also see a happy human being.
     
  17. Battle Tested20

    Battle Tested20 - Lakers Starter -

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    Luke or Thibs.

    I'm okay with either
     
  18. Savory Griddles

    Savory Griddles - Lakers Starter -

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    If we're trying to get good free agents, Thibs needs to be the choice. I have a lot of faith that Walton will be a solid head coach. But if I were a good free agent, and the money is the same everywhere, I'd rather play for Thibs than Luke. Thibs is a proven basketball genius on at least one end of the floor. Luke is unknown.
     
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  19. sirronstuff

    sirronstuff LB Facebook Editor

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    [​IMG]
     

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