While so many young players set goals to become the next Michael Jordan or LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, none of them do. But it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it to say you want to be the next Robert Horry or PJ Tucker or Shane Battier despite all of those players having important roles on title-winning teams.
That’s what made D’Angelo Russell’s comments after Sunday’s preseason game against the Bucks all the more noteworthy. Russell has spent the preseason showing a notable amount of personal growth while having a terrific mindset and approach to the game.
As impressive as he’s been mentally leading up to the regular season, he’s also been impressive statistically as well. Russell talked about why that’s the case and if he’s changed how he prepares for games this season.
“This is a situation where you can control your own destiny and that’s how I’m preparing for it,” Russell said. “I’m not using preseason as preseason. I’m using it as the first few games of the season. That’s just my approach. If I look crazy doing it – picking up guys full court, diving and doing all that – that’s the way I want to be. My inspiration has been Derrick White. I want to be Derrick White. He doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does. He makes all the winning plays. That’s who I want to be.”
It might sound silly on the surface for an NBA player to say “I want to be Derrick White,” but if D’Angelo Russell were to be Derrick White on this Lakers team, that would be a terrific complementary piece to LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the rest of the roster. He, obviously, won’t be a direct replicate of White, but becoming a player of that vein is a step in the right direction.
On Tuesday, White detailed some of the things that would make another NBA player want to model their game after him, as Jovan Buha of The Athletic wrote.
“I think it’s just competing, being in the right place,” White said. “Whether it shows up on the stat sheet or not, just doing the things that your team needs to do. And that’s just what I’m trying to do is whatever I can do to help this team win, whether that means scoring 20 points or getting two shots. Whatever it is to help us win, I’m willing to do that. So I think that’s what (Russell) was trying to say.”
Everything about Russell’s approach this season has been nothing but encouraging. He’s expressed a willingness to become a better player on the court, a better point guard for his head coach and, hopefully, an impactful player when it really matters.
Or, more or less, just like Derrick White.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.