The Los Angeles Lakers strayed away from drafting a franchise big man, instead going with an incredibly talented guard in D'Angelo Russell. After an exhaustive process and long month of speculation the Lakers welcomed their prized rookie to Los Angeles with an introductory press conference. Russell was joined by his fellow draftees, but the man of the hour was D'Angelo.
He'll now hold the mantle as the team's potential franchise player. Sure, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and the rest of the Lakers' youth movement are just as important in the rebuild, but with high draft position comes high expectations. His attention is elsewhere, focused on becoming the best player he possibly can be. "My mentality is learn from the best and just keep working and grinding. I'm not really worried about [expectations]."
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Becoming the point guard who will lead the Lakers into the future is a huge responsibility for Russell, but the past isn't going to build any delusions of grandeur. D'Angelo knows that style means nothing without substance, and just because he can dish a pretty pass doesn't mean the Lakers are back. That substance -- winning -- is what the city of LA thirsts for after two of the worst seasons in their storied history.
"I really want to be known for working hard and let the Showtime come along. These guys aren't used to losing, this is one of the most winningest franchises ever," Russell said when asked about bringing Showtime back to the Lakers."The Showtime usually comes with winning."
That kind of work ethic is what can lead Russell to becoming one of the NBA's next great guards. He has the talent and mind to make him a dominant basketball player. Now he'll transition to a lifestyle where he can spend all of his energy on his career with a chance to be the man who leads the Lakers back to the top. Better, he'll have an opportunity to learn from Kobe Bryant as the franchise transitions to a new generation. The two have already connected, and it sounds like someone's already been in the Mamba's ear about the new kid that'll be zipping the ball around the court in Los Angeles. "He said he's heard great things about me. My mentality is what separates me from the other guys."
"I just told him I'm a sponge." Russell said. "Whatever he's willing to teach me, I'm willing to learn."
What does he want to learn? "Everything."
These are the kinds of answers that weave dreams of D'Angelo Russell making Staples Center pop with the flick of his wrist. Whether that's for one of his eye-popping assists that made him one of the most exciting college players last season, or if it's to drain a bucket from deep. Russell has the talents to be a powerhouse, having nearly every tool he needs to develop into a star in the NBA.
It won't be long before D'Angelo makes his first impression on the court to a legion of Lakers fans who are ready to put their faith into him at the drop of one of his dazzling dimes. His first sit down with media, however, painted the kind of picture Lakers fans have been waiting for: A franchise player ready to put in the blood, sweat and tears needed to achieve greatness.
- Quotes transcribed via Lakers.com livestream