The Los Angeles Lakers youth movement has given D’Angelo Russell a chance to shine and show the league why they made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft.
After starting 22 of the first 24 games of his career, Russell came off the bench for the Lakers next 32 games. Since being reinserted into the starting lineup by head coach Byron Scott against the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 21, Russell is averaging 21.8 points and 4.8 assists a game while shooting 53 percent from the field.
Earlier this week, the talented Russell produced the best performance of his young career by scoring a career-high 39 points while adding three assists and six rebounds in the Lakers 107-101 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
“It’s just opportunity,” Russell said. “The opportunity that I got now wasn’t the same earlier this season. I had the opportunity, but I feel like I was thinking too much instead of going out there and just playing. Guys are starting to see; I know what I’m doing a little bit. I think things will just only get better.”
After going the first 21-games of his career without scoring more than 17 points, Russell has broken the twenty-point barrier in his last four games.
With three-fourths of his rookie season completed, Russell is finally starting to find his way in the NBA to the delight of Scott and Lakers fans everywhere.
“I‘ve learned if somebody is open, give them the ball. If not and it’s a clear shot to attack, you got to do it,” Russell said. “I’m starting to figure out how to create a pace to the game that forces everybody to play with you. Because if your big guys take the ball out quick and you get it down the floor, people are waiting for you to make a play call and by that time you are trying to create off a ball screen because people are trying to get you.”
Despite the string of good games, Russell has room for a ton of improvement. He still keeps finding himself getting erased too easily by opponent’s frontcourt players in a lot of screen and pop situations. Even with the holes remaining in his game, Russell has made too much progress for even the old school minded Scott to overlook.
“He’s getting more comfortable and his confidence is growing,” Scott said via LA Daily News prior to Russell’s breakout game. “His practice habits have gotten so much better.”
With the Lakers sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference standings with the worst record in franchise history through 62 games, the maturation of Russell will continue to be the biggest storyline the rest of the season as the young point guard develops. Russell recently admitted his recent string of success can be attributed to the comfort he is gaining with Scott; only highlights how the development of this relationship is big for the Lakers future.
“You’ve got to build that relationship with your coach and know that you’re a rookie coming into this league but you didn’t get here by accident,” Russell said. “So once I get that trust with my coach, I know I’ll feel like I’ll have that opportunity more and more.”