2) D’Angelo Russell and the Lakers seem quite mutually fond of each other
With each approaching hour, chatter had been building about the Lakers leaning towards Russell over Okafor. Many (myself included) wondered if this was a smoke screen meant to induce some goodies from the Sixers (who apparently will never have a point guard) in exchange for swapping slots. But come Draft Day, it started feeling like a real possibility that the Lakers were going small, especially after seeing phrases like “star” and “charisma” pop up in reports. Upon addressing the media after calling Russell’s name, Mitch Kupchak and Byron Scott upped those antes on the record.
“Am I going to say that we selected [Russell] because we think that’s the direction this league and this game is going? I don’t think that’s the case. You still need quality big men in this league, and if any of those players in the wall were available, we would’ve selected them. But they weren’t. So our choices were what they were and we’re very happy to have D’Angelo be a Laker.”
Lakers coach Byron Scott said Russell reminded him of his former Lakers backcourt mate Johnson.
“Just watching him in 3-on-3 [situations], the way he commanded guys to do certain things — the last guy that I saw that that I played with was [Magic Johnson] … and he did that in 3-on-3 with guys that he didn’t know,” Scott said. “So obviously we’re anxious to see what he can do in 5-on-5 with guys that he’s going to play with on a regular basis.”
Scott said Russell is also “on the level” of another point guard that he coached in the NBA: Clippers All-Star Chris Paul.
Beyond whatever skills Russell brings to the table, it’s easy to see how the Lakers would be attracted to his general aura. Talking with the guard after his first workout in El Segundo, I was very impressed with his presence, which struck me as the perfect blend of grounded confidence. He reiterated a belief about being the best player in the draft, but said so in a way that didn’t come off as unearned arrogance. And there’s definitely an obvious, easily marketed charisma, a quality the Lakers happen to be exceptional at marketing. Whether Russell can reach true star status remains to be seen, but he definitely projects a star quality, and that’s potentially enticing for the franchise and fans alike.
Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that he seems very geeked at the prospect of being a Laker. Always a plus.
CONTINUE SLIDESHOW: Four Takeaways From The Lakers’ 2015 NBA Draft Night