The Los Angeles Lakers front office has copped nothing but criticism over the last three years. Now, it’s time to praise them for picking D’Angelo Russell ahead of Jahlil Okafor at last year’s NBA Draft.
Granted that Okafor is showing superstar potential, too, Russell will most likely have a more accomplished career in the guard-driven NBA. In a few years, Russell could well be averaging 25 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds per game. The Ohio State product is a superstar in the making.
Leading into draft night on June 25, it was almost a given that Lakers would draft the more established Okafor, who had won laurels and championships at every stage of his high school and college career. Russell was almost an unknown commodity and perhaps the bigger gamble.
A latest report on Yahoo reveals that Russell had practically “begged” the Lakers to draft him with the precious No. 2 pick. “Russell invited the glare before the draft, when he practically begged the Lakers to take him No. 2 overall, fully accepting the attention that came with it,” writes Michael Lee of the Vertical.
From ‘Bustell’ to Lakers superstar…
After a disappointing run in the Summer League, Russell was hailed “a bust” by many basketball pundits, including loyal Lakers fans. A few months into the season, Russell was nicknamed “bustell” by so-called “Laker haters” and even those who claim to support the Purple & Gold.
After Russell was benched by coach Byron Scott, there was speculation that the rookie might get traded before the deadline. Thankfully, Russell exhibited his full repertoire of skills after returning to the starting unit after the all-star break.
Over his last 5 games, Russell is averaging 23.6 points, 4.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals from 33.8 minutes of playing time. More importantly, the Lakers won 3 of these 5 games, including the monumental upset of Golden State Warriors last Sunday.
Besides figuring out the speed of the NBA, Russell thrives under pressure – the kind of attitude needed to succeed in the bright lights L.A. “When you come to the Laker franchise, it puts way much more on you as a player. Once you’re a Laker, you’re always going to be among the cream of the crop. I wanted that,” Russell told The Vertical.
Russell acknowledges that the “bustell” chants bothered him. “And adversity sets in, when you go through hard times, being a Laker, like me not starting being the No. 2 pick, everybody is like, ‘He’s not starting, he’s a bust.’ And I didn’t really take advantage of the opportunity that I had. Now that I have the opportunity, I’ve been showing just a little bit of what I can do and what I can make happen for myself. That’s all that it’s about.”
For a change, it’s time to praise the Lakers front office.