Lakers: D’Angelo Russell Making Good On His Promise to Fans

Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard D
Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard D /

Lakers’ rising star, D’Angelo Russell is making good on his promise to fans last season: “Y’all ain’t seen nothing yet

The road back to relevance for the Los Angeles Lakers has widely resembled a pot hole infested, dumpster strewn back alley rather than the smooth streets of Figueroa that the team has grown so accustomed to. From locker room drama to on court tension, the past few seasons were more Real Housewives of Hollywood than LA Lakers basketball.

Now that Kobe Bryant is officially gone, the team looks to the future with bright eyes full of hope and rightly so. With no “official” passing of the torch moment, it was widely assumed that the Lakers young core would lead by committee but D’Angelo Russell seems to have different plans entirely.

Simply watching his first three games of Las Vegas summer league, it’s apparent that D’Lo has more on his mind than “play better than last year,” he instead appears to be on a mission to show the world that this is his team and his alone.

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While the comparison above places specific focus on his improved scoring and rebounding, the real difference lies in his efficiency shooting the ball paired with his improved decision making, increasing his shooting percentages to 47 percent from 3-point range, 53.3 percent overall.

Further, it is how he is scoring that should be emphasized. After the game he talked about pace and his growth in that area definitely shows.

"Getting the first year under your belt, you come back with a different swagger, a different confidence, a different pace to your game. And with my pace I know I’m going to be a point guard so I still gotta get better every game and treat it like it’s a playoff game."

A specific example of this is Russell’s ability manipulate his defender in the pick-and-roll. While he showed patience and poise beyond his years last season, his staggering development in this area cannot be overlooked.

On multiple occasions D’Lo received a high screen or pump faked his man, got the defender behind him then used his body to navigate to the free throw line extended where he knocked down uncontested shot after uncontested shot.

Similar to Chris Paul, it’s apparent that Russell has been vigorously studying film of his peers, even showcasing his ability to draw fouls on layups in game one of summer league with the good ol’ extended arms James Harden trick.

Again similar to Paul, Harden and even Kyrie Irving, Russell uses his ability to split the pick and roll to perfection, knowing exactly when to create for himself or dish to an open teammate… and it’s only summer league.

However, all of these aspects pale in comparison to his ability to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, with specific regards to his willingness to take and more importantly, make clutch shots. Fans of the Lakers saw exactly this for over a decade on a nightly basis, so Russell’s Mamba Mentality definitely eases the changing of the guard.

Kobe not only led by example but was extremely vocal in the process, so seeing Russell’s take on leadership shows that his lone season with the Black Mamba truly shaped his persona.

Last year, Russell’s turnover issues stemmed largely from his teammates not expecting his passes and not being patient enough, while this years giveaways are due mainly to mishandling of the dribble in the pick and roll and additional usage, which is to be expected. This is attested to by his slight drop in assists this year, showing that he is far from your father’s pass first point guard.

Ironically, there’s actually a silver lining in Russell’s high turnover rate. According to CBS Sports’ Zach Harper the 19 rookies in NBA history who have averaged at least 3.5 turnovers per game included the likes of Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Penny Hardaway and Allen Iverson.

While Russell may not be a rookie, the fact that he’s playing in a completely new system, under a completely different coach makes this statistic still relevant even going into his sophomore year.

On the offensive end, Russell may lead by example and his teammates have pointed this out, but it is on the defensive end of the floor that he definitely needs to improve.

In addition to inheriting Kobe’s clutch gene, it seems that D’Lo’s also picked up his bad habit of telling his teammates where to be while letting his man blow right by him.

Next: D'Angelo Russell's Dad Celebrates Game Winner With Son

Seeing that it’s still summer league, this change will likely come into play when Luke Walton fully takes the reigns, but D’Angelo Russell’s new role as leader of the squad is picking up steam and that should have fans jumping for joy.