D’Angelo Russell is ready for his second chance with Lakers
D’Angelo Russell was a teenager when the Lakers drafted him second overall in the 2015 NBA draft, a 19-year-old still trying to find his way as a player and a teammate during a time when he had “some growing pains.”
Russell is back with the Lakers after having been acquired from Minnesota on Thursday, a “grown man now” who turns 27 on Feb. 23.
He came to the Lakers along with friends Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt, both of whom arrived from Utah during deadline day in a deal that sent Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones to the Jazz.
From his days in Brooklyn, where the Lakers shipped him after two mostly uneven and controversial years in L.A., to his time at Golden State and Minnesota, Russell has grown with his game.
Russell dealt with some controversy as a rookie when he secretly videotaped Lakers teammate Nick Young talking about cheating on fiancée Iggy Azalea. That caused some problems in the Lakers locker room and eventually led to Russell being traded to the Nets in 2017.
It was there he found his footing, becoming an All-Star in 2019, his offense blossoming, his three-point stroke a big part of his development.
The Lakers made some promising moves before the NBA trade deadline, but make no mistake — they need LeBron James to stay healthy to remain competitive.
When he spoke to the media Friday before the Lakers left for a flight to San Francisco for Saturday evening’s game against the Golden State Warriors, Russell said he had “never hoped for” a chance to return to the Lakers.
“I mean, a lot has happened since I’ve been here, right? I was an All-Star, went to the playoffs. I’ve done a lot of things individually,” Russell said. “So, to come back with that resume, I feel like it helps the team or whatnot. I never hoped to be back here because I didn’t understand if I could be ready for it and be a part of what they were doing for the future, because you never know what the team’s gonna look like, so it’s hard to find stability in that.
“But I’m here now, and I really appreciate being back, because I feel like I’m ready for everything that’s about to come for the team and whatever comes my way.”
Russell talked about how much he “appreciated” learning from the great Kobe Bryant during the 2015-17 seasons.
“Appreciating Kobe when I was here wasn’t really something I did because I was young and I was figuring it out,” Russell said. “But as soon as I left, I appreciated him more. Now that he’s gone, I appreciate him even more. So, when I reflect on that Lakers tenure when I was here, it’s all a reflection of him.”
As a 6-4 starting point guard, Russell gives the Lakers the outside shooting they have been missing this season.
He was shooting a career-best 39.1% from three-point range in 54 games with the Timberwolves. He was averaging 17.9 points, 6.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds. Over his eight-year career, Russell has averaged 17.7 points and shot 36% from deep.
Kevin Durant’s arrival in Phoenix shifts power among Western Conference teams, much to the dismay of the Clippers, Lakers and other playoff contenders.
“Just coming into my own with who I am as a player,” he said. “The longer you’re around in the league, the more you form an identity for yourself and for the opposing group of guys. I know I’m dangerous on the floor and guys respect that, so when I’m playing against guys, I kinda know what to get to.
“Bringing that to here, we got a good group of guys. I try to use the word ‘dangerous’ because it’s a versatile group and they can make plays anytime, and it’s hard to scout for when you throw myself into that. Just try to be that Swiss Army Knife that can just kinda add value to wherever.”
Russell, Beasley and Vanderbilt were teammates when Minnesota made the playoffs last season. Beasley and Vanderbilt were dealt to the Jazz last summer in the Rudy Gobert blockbuster trade and both thrived.
Beasley, a 6-4 shooting guard, averaged 13.4 points while shooting 35.9% from three-point range with the Jazz and Vanderbilt, a 6-9 forward, averaged 8.3 points and 7.9 rebounds.
“So, making this transition with people that you’re already familiar with, it makes it much easier,” Vanderbilt said. “We know D-Lo on and off the court, obviously I’m familiar with Beas. So, just having those guys with me, going through this process, is going to make it a lot smoother.”
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