If a player’s rookie year is like their first steps into the NBA, D’Angelo Russell didn’t exactly take off running. The Los Angeles Lakers young point guard stumbled at times, fell on his butt at others, and eventually started to show consistent flashes of becoming the type of player the team envisioned when they selected him with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Some of Russell’s struggles came on the court where, despite all of his signs of progress, he averaged 3.1 turnovers a game while shooting an aggressively “meh” 41 percent from the field for the year.
However, the most infamous drama came off the court. Everyone knows the story by now: a video Russell recorded of teammate Nick Young admitting to cheating on his fiancee was leaked and went viral, which to increased scrutiny on whether or not Russell was a good teammate after his teammates reportedly isolated him following the incident.
It wasn’t exactly the Cinderella story of a rookie year most would have hoped for, but Russell told Adrian Wojnarowski on “The Vertical Podcast with Woj” when asked if he ever had any doubts last season that all of the negativity was a drop in the bucket compared to real life issues:
“Never, never. It’s crazy cause I know where I come from. I know what kind of family I have. It’s so hard growing up where I grew up at. So when you get to this, it’s all - it’s a challenge, don’t get me wrong - but it’s not on the same level.
“Some days you have to eat cereal at night, you might not have milk in the morning. Your mom driving you to school in the morning, she’s working two to three jobs. That stuff’s way harder than dealing with the media here, dealing with TMZ bringing up issues that can really affect your mentality. Little stuff like that, it’s just a smack on the wrist.
“When you know you come from that, you know how hard you’ve worked and you trust your ability and all this it’s just a movie, it’s just a book. You’re writing your story. When you retire and it’s all over, you’re gonna sit back and laugh at these moments.”
Russell seems to be showing good perspective here, and has expressed a desire to learn from the lessons of last season in prior interviews throughout the summer.
Last year’s first attempt at walking in the NBA may have led to a few tumbles, but what’s important is that Russell sounds ready to get back up and try again.
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