Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell had a roller coaster of a rookie season. After being drafted with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, he struggled to find his rhythm early, then hit his stride just after the All-Star break. During one particularly memorable run, he scored over 20 points in seven out eight games, including a 39-point explosion in the “Ice in my veins” game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Unfortunately, towards the end of the season, a tape leaked of Russell and Nick Young discussing the latter’s activities outside of his relationship with fiance Iggy Azalea. The incident reportedly created tension in the Lakers locker room, but Russell has made efforts to move past it.
In an interview with Broderick Turner of the L.A. Times, Russell discussed how seriously he is taking his offseason training while on a promotional tour of China:
“(I’m training) every day… I actually said I wasn’t going to take this trip if I couldn’t. The only other place I’ve been to out of the country is Mexico, and China is my second place. So I didn’t want to go if I couldn’t get the time in the gym […] I feel like I have something to prove, man. It’s a dedication thing […] I’ll let my game speak for itself.”
The Lakers, who are coming off of a franchise-worst 17-win season, badly need Russell to turn into the star player that they envisioned him being when they selected him last summer. His court vision is impressive, and he can throw other-worldly passes at times, but there is still much work to be done if Russell is going to make a big impact in the NBA.
One thing that has never wavered throughout Russell’s time in Los Angeles is his self-confidence. He believes in himself and believes that he will be one of the top players in the league.
It may take some time, and will certainly take a lot of hard work, but with Kobe Bryant retired Russell will get every opportunity to prove that he can become a star.