Los Angeles Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell is looking forward to another matchup against Sacramento Kings point guard Rajon Rondo on Wednesday night. The two had their first meeting in Las Vegas in the preseason, and have since matched up twice in the regular season.
But, Russell has been following Rondo’s career for much longer than that. The two grew up in the same city of Louisville and even worked out together during Russell’s freshman year at Central High School, and the 19-year old rookie is hoping to prove himself when they match up for a third time at Staples Center.
“A lot of people have probably been feeding him my name,” Russell said on Tuesday. “Growing up we had the same high school coach, and he was probably talking his ear off about me (to Rondo), and I haven’t really had the opportunity to prove myself, so every time I go up against him I just want to prove myself. “
The first time the two met in the regular season, Rondo torched Russell and the Lakers, finishing with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting, dishing eight assists, grabbing three rebounds and a steal, beating the Lakers 132-114. In their last matchup, Russell had one of his best games of the year, hitting a new career-best 27 points, on 11-of-16 shooting with four assists, two boards and two steals, before exiting the game with an ankle sprain. Yet, despite overcoming a 27-point deficit, it was still a losing effort by the Lakers, falling 118-115.
Tomorrow night, the Lakers will be looking for their first win against the Kings this season, and Russell will be looking for his first against Rondo.
“Growing up watching him, going against him in high school, he’s one of the greats from my city, so I’ve got major respect for him, but when we get out there, it’s all business.”
Russell said one of the main things he notices with Rondo is how he’s able to control the game, without shooting jumpshots. But, it’s not just how Rondo plays the game that Russell respects about him. It’s even more about his mentality and approach.
“Just having that edge about him,” Russell said about what he’s taken away from watching Rondo. “A lot of guys don’t really like him. A lot of coaches don’t really like him, but he still finds a way to win, and if that’s what it takes to be a winner in this league, I think I’m going to follow that path.”
But, Russell’s quick to clarify he’s not trying to be anybody else, not even Rondo. He’s trying to make his own name.
“Just really being myself my whole career,” Russell said about the mentality he’s trying to establish early on. “I don’t want to turn into somebody I’m not.”