D’Angelo Russell’s game-winner against the Sixers’ summer league team was electrifying, but that shot wasn’t the most intriguing thing he showed Sunday night and ultimately, all of summer league. He has started to show signs of leadership, taking directive and giving out commands for the betterment of the people around him.
Becoming a leader is tough. Being D’Angelo Russell makes that even tougher, clouded by controversies from his rookie year that hurt the team’s ability to trust him. It’s evident that this will be a hefty challenge for the 20-year-old entering his sophomore season.
“And throughout the game, we started slowly creeping back, playing Laker basketball, playing the way we know we can play. At the end of the game, before the shot, before all of that, I was just preaching, we were going to win this game,” Russell said.
Even with that difficulty, Russell is taking steps forward to that role as he told reporters following the game against the Sixers. His constant communication with teammates, even ones who probably won’t make the Lakers’ training camp, is visible. It showed on Monday night against the Warriors. Russell started talking with Nance at 6:29 mark of the third quarter, working on improving after Nance fouled Keifer Sykes on a layup. He’s keeping his head on his shoulders and pushing the team forward.
.@ROSGO21 caught up with @Dloading following a @Lakers #NBASummer win… https://t.co/EiuTy8bfLZ
— NBA TV (@NBATV) July 12, 2016
Russell’s insistence to focus on his teammates bodes well for the franchise, but it also showcases the next step for Russell as a leader on the court; controlling and setting the pace of the game as he wills. The ability that belongs to elite point guards like Chris Paul and Mike Conley can dismantle humming defenses and disrupt fast-paced offenses from hitting their stride. Russell will take some time before becoming a leader for Los Angeles, but he has the individual talent to take him where he wants to go.
Anthony Brown on Russell: “His confidence is at an all-time high … We all know how talented he is … He can pretty much control the game.“
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) July 12, 2016
D’Angelo Russell is a living Swiss army knife, able to take smaller (occasionally bigger) defenders and post them up with a lot of success. He is quick on fast-breaks, dominant on pick and rolls, and excellent at handling players on his hip. Add in stretching the floor and forcing defenders to tighten up and give space in the middle of the floor gives Russell’s playmaking a grand stage to dazzle crowds. He isn’t a shooting guard that can pass, Russell is a guard who embodies the best qualities of both guard positions.
Summer league doesn’t mean much as it pales in comparison to the difficulty of the NBA regular season, but Russell isn’t worried about that. He knows that the retirement of Kobe Bryant leaves a void, and a challenging journey that Russell is already preparing for.