Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott spoke with Time Warner Cable SportsNet during their live media day coverage, covering a wide range of topics. Perhaps most important was what he had to say about incoming No. 2 pick D'Angelo Russell, who's preparing for his first training camp as a professional athlete. Russell has been working at the Lakers' training facility throughout the summer, and he's left Scott impressed about his progress.
Byron also revealed Russell wasn't 100 percent during Summer League, which hindered him on the court. "He let us know later that he had an ankle and a knee problem that was bothering him that he just never got treatment on because he wanted to play so bad," Scott said. "That kind of tells you about the character of the kid, too."
Anticipation leading into the season has been high for fans and players alike, leading to El Segundo buzzing with more player activity than Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said he's ever seen. The Lakers' roster has huddled around working hard together for a fresh year, and what Scott's seen from Russell sounds promising.
"The last three weeks of him in this gym playing, I saw some things that I didn't see in Summer League. I saw some explosiveness. I saw some quickness," Byron said of D'Angelo during the in-house training sessions. "He was never really just going by people in Summer League, where as here now we know why. It's because of the injuries that he had."
"I saw some things that made me go 'Whoa okay.' I didn't see that from him in Summer League."
Russell's first year as a rookie should have tempered expectations, but with a talent as tantalizing as he can be, it's hard not to project optimism as the franchise moves forward. He's a young point guard who showed during Summer League why everyone needs to be patient as he adjust to playing with and against NBA talent through an 82-game season, but he also made plays that left the possibilities feeling endless. His mindset is on the controllables, though, like putting the kind of work that can separate him from the pack.
"Just work hard. Be humble and hungry," D'Angelo said of his focus going into training camp. "Just try to outwork the next guy. It's a business now, and at the age of 19, you never would've thought your priorities are what they are." His priorities have revolved around working with the new core forming in Los Angeles, where an entire fanbase awaits confirmation that he's the guy they can trust with the wheel going forward.
That kind of expectation may have been one of the reasons Russell admittedly forced the issue during Summer League in Las Vegas. "The thing that I saw in Summer League was a young man that was pressing. He was pressing to prove to everybody that he should have been the No. 2 pick," Scott said.
Training camp begins on Tuesday for the Lakers, giving Russell his first taste of playing on an NBA roster. With the kind of hard work he sounds prepared to put in toward his craft, it may not be long before it's clear he's one of the keys for the franchise.