D’Angelo Russell missed the first round of exit interviews last week as he continued to deal with the passing of his grandmother. Tuesday morning, he sat down with Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and Luke Walton, then shared their thoughts with the media afterward.
There were no real surprises in the message he relayed, though some will probably disagree with his assessment of the year because of course they will.
The interview started with what the Lakers brass was hoping for Russell to improve upon and the message aligned with what other players who will be returning have said. Russell will be focused on improving his body, leadership and consistency moving forward.
Magic actually echoed the sentiment regarding their conditioning in a recent interview. The Lakers will be coming into next season ready to run marathons, apparently.
When asked about what he liked from his game this season compared to last, Russell gave a pretty interesting answer.
"Playmaking" - D'Angelo Russell responds when asked where he thinks his game improved the most this season.— Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) April 18, 2017
Now, most will point to his assist numbers and blah blah blah, but he really did improve in that aspect. This isn’t to say he can’t continue to improve (and he plans to), but he was proud of the steps forward he took.
Regarding leadership, here’s what he had to say, via the L.A. Daily News’ Mark Medina.
“You need the credibility to a certain extent, but if your teammates see you doing it and what you’re trying to preach or they witness you trying to do the right thing at all times when no one is looking, it gives them a better perspective on you,” Russell said. “I feel like this year for me, it wasn’t consistent enough with my play, with my communication and everything. It wasn’t consistent enough for them to respect what I had to say.”
As always, Russell pretty much hits the nail on the head regarding where he might’ve fallen short. It’s been said before, but being able to acknowledge a shortcoming is the first step in trying to fix that issue.
Both Russell and Brandon Ingram have spoken about the steps they hope to take in leading the Lakers and, so long as they remain the faces of the organization (outside of Luke Walton, that is), the team will pretty much go as they learn those lessons.
In other news, Russell did express gratitude for the support he got from teammates and the organization when his grandmother passed. He leaned heavily on teammates the night he hit that game-winner (which wound up being his final shot of the season, by the way) and said the Lakers sent flowers to his grandmother’s wake.
That’s a very cool, classy move.
Anthony Irwin is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here, or listen to our latest episode on Russell and Carmelo Anthony below), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.