One of the more underrated storylines of Sunday night’s Crypto.com Arena bout between the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks was a minor reunion between D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. Both were top Laker draft picks that have been on fascinating career arcs since leaving L.A.
Russell was traded to the Brooklyn Nets from the Lakers, where he instantly became an All-Star and a young pillar for an exciting Brooklyn team. But he was traded to the Golden State Warriors when the Nets landed Kevin Durant. He was then dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves when the Warriors felt Andrew Wiggins would be a better long-term fit.
After a rollercoaster of success and difficulties in Minneapolis, Russell found his way back to the Lakers via trade in February. Meanwhile, Randle was effectively let go by L.A. as part of a cap casualty and wound up with the New Orleans Pelicans.
After a short stint there, he landed with the New York Knicks, where he’s made two All-Star teams and has become the backbone of a quality Knicks team. And against the Lakers on Sunday, Randle discussed what it meant to be back on L.A.’s court facing off against Russell, where both had outstanding games, according to NBA on ESPN:
“It’s fun. We used to compete a lot in practice, one-on-one. We were competing every day, video games, we were growing up as kids here. Nine years later, eight years later, whatever it is, to be back on this court battling it out again was fun.”
Russell was also asked about sharing the floor with his former teammate, but the Lakers guard gave a glimpse into his on-court mindset instead. “I’m a fan of his game. No relationship. We played together. We went our separate ways after that,” Russell said. “It’s just been competitive energy ever since then. That’s how I am with everybody. I’m not really friends with anybody, to be honest. On the court, it’s no love. Just trying to battle and try to get the win. Maybe shake hands after.”
While Russell may have fond memories of his time with Randle in L.A., he chose to focus on the present, especially after a difficult loss that — for the time being — dropped the Lakers out of the Play-In Tournament.
Regardless though, it was cool to see the two former Baby Lakers battle as Randle led his team 33 points, eight rebounds and five assists while Russell led his with 33 points of his own to go with five rebounds and eight assists.
Russell is looking to keep that focus going as he tries to help lead the Lakers to a postseason spot without the help of superstar LeBron James. He’ll face another former Laker lottery pick in Brandon Ingram on Tuesday night.
Anthony Davis takes responsibility for play against Knicks
Lakers star Anthony Davis did not hold back when discussing his performance against the Knicks. He called himself “terrible,” saying he couldn’t get anything done on the offensive end despite the Knicks not doing “anything special” in guarding him.
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