New kid on the block
With their 2015 overall number two pick, the Los Angeles Lakers chose Point Guard D’Angelo Russell. Dlo was not (and still isn’t to some) considered the right pick for the Lakers. A lot of Lakers fans really wanted to pick Jahlil Okafor over DLo, and it left me asking “who raised you?” There was only one player in that draft that I would have chosen over DLo and that player was Karl Anthony Towns who went number one to Minnesota.
Dlo meets Luke Walton
In D’Angelo’s rookie year I must admit, I had some questions about his transition to the NBA. He averaged 13 points, looked slow and i was thinking “this won’t work”, then it hit me. Byron Scott just wasn’t a good coach for today’s young players. He often coached with discipline, and had an old school “get me a switch off the tree” demeanor. Watching Byron result to benching players, instead of teaching them how to get better was frustrating. The Lakers finished that season with 17 wins and by June 2016 Byron Scott was fired and Luke Walton was hired.
It’s obvious that this move was great for Laker Nation as a whole. From the fans to the players, Luke Walton’s culture has been very easy to embrace. DLo has responded fairly well to the freedom in Luke’s system. Running a system, learning how to balance your shot selection and getting others involved is not as easy as people like to portray.
I believe late in the season when Luke moved Dlo to the 2 guard, is when we were really able to see him shine. He was still able to make sum amazing no look passes but didn’t have to open the floor for teammates. When watching his game you realize his shot looks so much better when he is in a catch and shoot situation vs. trying to play make and find his shot. He isn’t the fastest or the most athletic so going against certain point guards left him exposed. One thing we did learn, is Russell isn’t afraid of the big moment and that alone should excite Lakers fans. On April 9th we saw him take and make the game winner at the buzzer against the Timberwolves. What makes that moment so special is he lost his grandmother earlier that day and still rose to the occasion.
Wanting the Lakers to trade Dlo who hasn’t even been in the league three years makes zero sense to me. The same people that say he is a bust, expect him to be traded for value. That doesn’t make sense to me but what do I know. And for the people that expect him to be traded for Paul George, please remember Dlo and PG have the same agent. I doubt an agent will swap one player for the next, but we shall see.
Let go of the hate
My issue with most Dlo haters is their ability to ignore his growth to stick with the “bust” narrative. Byron Scott won 38 games as the Lakers head coach but somehow people act like Dlo was supposed to turn into a superstar under him. Yes, Dlo has a lot to learn but his mentality is exactly where Lakers Fans should want it. He’s talented, confident, poised and not scared of the spotlight. Expecting a rookie or young player to come into a rebuilding situation (Especially in Hollywood after 20 years of Kobe) and just takeover isn’t realistic. Dlo is going on his 3rd season and I honestly think we will see a MUCH different player next season.