D'Angelo Russell’s young career is about to become more challenging
Another practice has ended, one of countless many D'Angelo Russell will experience if the Lakers are right about him.
Before he walks off the court, he has some chores to erase from a list. He grabs a bunch of loose basketballs and places them in aluminum racks. He stoops over to pick up half-empty plastic bottles, at least a dozen of them, and tosses them in a large can. There aren’t any towels to gather up, as far as he can see.
This is life as an NBA rookie, whether drafted second or 42nd overall.
“Yeah, but we’ve got, like, 10 rookies here. It’s surprising that I’m the only one out here,” Russell said Monday, accepting his rookie fate with veteran humor.
The Lakers are full of laughs this month. Nothing counts yet, not until Oct. 28. Each week of exhibition play is another one distanced from the horrors of a 21-61 season.
He knows the fun is about to turn furious. The exhibition schedule is already halfway done, but Utah’s Trey Burke is the only NBA-caliber point guard he’s faced.
The Lakers play Sacramento on Tuesday, which means matchups against veteran point guards Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison. The final exhibitions are against Golden State (Stephen Curry), Portland (Damian Lillard) and Golden State again — three games against All-Star point guards.
Yes, it’s about to get real. You also could add pointed and direct.
“It’ll definitely give you a visual on where you’re at as an individual,” Russell said.
He always liked Chauncey Billups when he was growing up, a stronger, thicker guard who “just knew how to get it done,” he said. He also tracked Jason Kidd and Rondo, the latter hailing from Russell’s hometown, Louisville.
In the past, Russell said he tailored his game after Curry’s sweet-shooting abilities. He is reluctant to talk about it now, trying to avoid sounding like a fan or, indeed, a 19-year-old.
“I don’t feel like I can say that anymore when I’m in this league with [these] guys. I don’t feel like I can talk about them as much, so I try not to,” he said.
Russell’s raves in training camp have been about his passes. He had 11 assists Sunday against Maccabi Haifa, something more valuable if it came against an NBA team in the regular season, but something nonetheless.
He could have had an even dozen, but center Tarik Black wasn’t quite ready for one.
“If you’re open, I’m going to get it to you,” Russell explained after an easy 126-83 victory. “Half the time, you probably won’t know you’re open.”
There was a valid question for Lakers Coach Byron Scott, if a little early in Russell’s career: How does Russell compare to Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd and Chris Paul?
Scott played alongside Johnson and coached Kidd in New Jersey and Paul in New Orleans.
“They all wanted to kind of step on your throat if they had you down. I think this kid has that,” Scott said. “Obviously, his vision on the court is a lot like all three of those guys. They could see the floor unlike most people in this game.
“He’s got a gift, there’s no doubt about that. It’s just a matter of us making sure he continues to develop in other areas of the game too.”
That would be shooting and defense, fairly large cargo in the truckload of a player’s rookie season — significantly larger than discarded plastic bottles and random unracked basketballs.
Nothing counts yet. It will soon enough.
Roy Hibbert had a sore right knee when he showed up for Monday’s practice, prompting the Lakers to consider sending him to a doctor for an MRI exam. They decided against it but held Hibbert out of practice. He said he could play Wednesday against Sacramento, Scott said.
MORE SPORTS NEWS:
All things Lakers, all the time.
Get all the Lakers news you need in Dan Woike's weekly newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.