Before he scored a career-high 39 points, the most points by a Los Angeles Lakers rookie since Elgin Baylor, D'Angelo Russell's father texted him a simple question.
"Are you hungry?" Russell recalled his father asking.
Russell feasted like a wild grizzly bear in an all-you-can-eat buffet against the Brooklyn Nets, going 14-21 from the field and making 8-12 three pointers to go with six rebounds and three assists in just over 35 minutes of playing time. It was quite simply the rookie's best performance of the year, the type of potential promised by his confident claims in early January that "y'all ain't seen nothing yet."
We've seen something now. Russell's explosion may have come against the moribund Nets, but it was still the most points scored by a rookie this season and served as the latest and most complete reminder of the talent that led the Lakers to select Russell second overall in the 2015 NBA draft.
Russell ate because with Kobe Bryant out with sore shoulder, and head coach Byron Scott's belatedly transitioning towards favoring the Lakers' youth movement over chasing wins that still didn't come with his veterans, he has finally been allowed a seat at the table.
The Lakers' rookie point guard was given leeway to create previously only given to Bryant this season, with 33.6 percent of the Lakers' possessions against the Nets ending in a shot, assist, drawn foul, or turnover by Russell, and he made good use of nearly all of them.
The Lakers' outscored the Nets by 18.2 points per 100 possessions while Russell was on the floor, with the team's new offensive set looking far more effective with Russell conducting it. The game was just the latest in a torrid stretch for D'Angelo, who has averaged 19.2 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds over his last six games while shooting 54.2 percent from the field and 60 percent on three-pointers.
Russell was even more effective when it mattered most on Tuesday, taking seven of the Lakers' 17 shots in the fourth quarter against Brooklyn, making five of them. Most impressive were Russell's late threes, the last of which was a 27-foot, Stephen Curry-esque heave that found nothing but the bottom of the net, giving the Lakers a 103-97 that put the game out of reach for Brooklyn.
"I've got ICE. IN. MY. VEINS," Russell mouthed to the television cameras after closing the refrigerator door on the Nets, his emphatic needle-injection gesture a metaphor for the energy he mainlined into the Lakers and their fanbase as a whole on Tuesday night.
Russell told reporters after the game that he had run out of celebrations and it was the first he could think of, and his performance served notice that he's also run out of patience for sitting games in the fourth quarter, and that he won't be giving his coach any reason to do so any time soon.
Russell has more than earned his seat at the table now, and he's going to follow his father's advice and eat.
All quotes transcribed via Time Warner Cable Sportsnet. All stats per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.