Like Simba returning to claim his throne in The Lion King, D'Angelo Russell was back like he never left last season. Just like that, nostalgia met the present like a television reboot. Back was the swag, the handles and the 'ice in his veins' celebration.
But similar to a reboot, you started to remember why running it back isn't always a great idea. Back was also the inconsistent shooting and poor defensive performances. Things got so dire against the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs that Russell had to be benched in the final game and his return to the team was no longer a certainty.
In the offseason, he was re-signed and said all the right things about what he would bring to the table. Talk about defensive attention heightening and a desire to right last year's wrong was a constant theme from him during training camp and preseason action.
Russell has had his share of good and bad games during these first few weeks, but he has delivered on his promises so far. Defensively, he's picking up players full court, fighting off screens and closing out on shooters. Offense was never a problem for him and this season has been no exception, averaging 17.9 points per game.
Versus the Memphis Grizzlies, Russell not only led the Lakers in scoring with 24 points but also had an offensive outburst, scoring 12 straight in the third quarter to keep the Grizzlies from generating any comeback, securing the biggest win for the purple and gold this year.
While the performance was impressive, it wasn't a surprise to Darvin Ham.
"He had one of those D'Lo runs," Ham said postgame. "You got guys like that that can go on an 11-, 13-0 run quick by themselves, I just think it's huge. And, hell, we got four or five of those type of guys – D'Lo, Rui, Austin, Bron, AD, guys who can carry a load when called upon. Tonight it was D'Lo and we needed every bit of it."
Ham is right. This wasn't the first or last time Russell will go off like this and in an 82-game season, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves will also have nights similar to Russell's.
Hachimura did have this kind of night, scoring 23 points off the bench on 80% shooting. This slew of offensive weapons, paired with Davis as the defensive anchor, is one of the reasons the Lakers are part of a handful of teams being favored to come out of the West.
If this year the Lakers get close to the All-Star Russell the Brooklyn Nets had back in 2019, then Los Angeles will likely find themselves playing meaningful basketball games this summer.
For now, Los Angeles is on a three-game winning streak and looks to be finding a rhythm now that players are starting to return from injury and the schedule has weakened just a bit.
If Russell can continue being the guard the Lakers need and helps Los Angeles hoist the NBA Cup in December and the Larry O'Brien in June, he will secure the Lakers' place as the most successful franchise in the NBA.
He came into the league as the second pick in the draft and all the optimism of carrying on Kobe Bryant's legacy after he was done playing. If everything breaks his way this season, he can finally fulfill that destiny.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.