When one thinks of a leader and the kind of situation it’s easiest to lead in, the optimal situation that probably comes to mind involves veteran peers who all have a common interest: winning, regardless of what kinds of sacrifice it might take individually. A group of younger players, according to Magic Johnson, can be tough to lead by another rookie or sophomore. His theory makes sense.
A younger player stepping in as a rookie or sophomore trying to lead veterans might get stuff because of an age gap, hypothetically speaking. An older player surrounded by youth might run into the same problem, but in reverse.
But what happens when that younger player is asked to lead his peers? This is the situation D’Angelo Russell has been placed in, and Magic Johnson had his theory as to why Russell might struggle to put his foot down when he’s had to with this young Lakers team.
This, via Inside SoCal’s Mark Medina:
“D’Angelo is playing the toughest (position) in the NBA in the point guard position,” Johnson said. “What I want to see is just for him to lead a little bit more. Just be a leader and take even more responsibility in terms of guiding. Sometimes when everybody is young, nobody wants to hold guys accountable. They want to be their friend.”
Some will call this excuse-making for Russell, but it really makes sense. It might actually be easier for a younger player to step into a leadership role with veterans because those he’d be dealing with already pretty much know what has to be done.
When Russell is surrounded by the members of the young core on the court, he has to speak his mind all the more, considering no one out there has had hardly any success in their time with the Lakers. Add to that how awkward it can feel to rip into anyone (let alone a peer or friend), and Russell’s task can seem daunting.
One thing Magic does bring is experience. He’s been there, though mostly in the scenario where he was rarely surrounded only by youth. In Johnson, Russell has someone he can ask what might’ve worked best at the time, then figure out a way to reshape that approach given the situation he’s in and the guys he has to lead.
Fair or not, whether Russell figures this out will go a long way in shaping the Lakers’ future.