D’Angelo Russell has mostly remained mum since dominating Las Vegas Summer League to the tune of 21.8 points per game on 47.7 percent shooting to go with 6.3 rebounds and four assists.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ promising sophomore guard broke that silence on Thursday in a brief interview with Mike Bresnahan of Time Warner Cable Sportsnet following a workout session, and his goals remained the same as they were in Las Vegas: to “dominate” in the post.
“In this league everybody's different. You've got small guards that dominate the game, you've got athletic guards that dominate the game, you've got shooting guards that dominate the game, and the post is slowling disappearing with guards,” said Russell. “There's a few guards that still post up, like Westbrook, or Chris Paul a little bit. I just want to be one of those guys, Shaun Livingston, one of those guys that can dominate the game at any time in the post.”
Anyone who watched summer league knows Russell is well on his way to doing so, and he was already pretty good last season. Russell only received 95 post-up touches last year (Roy Hibbert led the team with 232. Try not to cry.), but he made the most of them, scoring on 26 of his 41 shot attempts (63.4 percent).
When he wasn’t shooting out of those possessions, Russell fared less well. He only assisted out of post-ups 2.1 percent of the time, and turned the ball over on 6.3 percent of the time. For comparison, Livingston (whom Russell mentioned) scored on 67.6 percent of his shots from the post and assisted 8.4 percent of the time, while only turning the ball over on 3.4 percent of his touches.
TL;DR: Russell (in a small sample size) scored nearly as well as Livingston, but his playmaking was far behind one of the NBA’s last great post-up guards. That makes sense considering it was only his rookie year, and the good news is it’s an area Russell understands he has to improve on, and told Bresnahan he must get better at not forcing things.
“At the next level you've got to take what they give you,” said Russell. “If the right play is facilitating the whole game and you've got eight or nine assists, that's fine, but just letting them know that you can do it.”
How quickly Russell will be able to make necessary adjustments remains to be seen, but he’s focused on not being caught off guard by the quality of competition in the NBA this year.
“I've been in the weight room a ton,” said Russell. “That's really my main focus. Last year, coming in you didn't have a clue what you were getting yourself into, you just knew what you've seen, but actually playing is a process. I'm just trying to get prepared as best I can.”
Russell is still just 20-years old, and has plenty of time to grow. He showed promise in the post last season, and with a little bit of refinement, Russell looks on pace to meet his goal of dominating there.