Outside of Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell has arguably been the most talked about player on the team this season. Much of this has to do with his play on the court, as well as how he has been handled by head coach Byron Scott, but recently there is something else that has come up regarding the rookie.
Russell has an extreme confidence in himself that has been noticeable to anyone who has followed his interviews during practice and after games.
Confidence is essential for any player to succeed in the NBA and there have been many players who have failed to reach their potential due to a lack of confidence in their abilities. That surely won’t be the case for Russell, but there is also a very thin line between necessary confidence and annoying cockiness, and Russell seems to be straddling that line.
Russell has no problem talking about what he expects from himself right now and in the future, but his play has yet to reach that level, and that simply won’t cut it when you’re still a rookie in this league.
We asked our panel of experts if they believe Russell is confident or cocky right now and is that a good or bad thing at this stage of his career. This is what they had to say:
Alan Huerta (@Alan_Huerta24): Every professional athlete needs the same confidence in their game that got them to where they’re at today. At the same time, however, there’s a huge difference between playing with confidence and affecting your team’s game plan by playing cocky.
In D’Angelo Russell’s case, I think his confidence is right where it needs to be. It isn’t too cocky and it isn’t too low. He may not be playing at the level the other lottery picks (Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, Kristaps Porzingis, etc.), but the 19-year-old Russell knows he was drafted No. 2 overall for a reason. And for those of you who misread his age, let me repeat that: the 19-year-old Russell.
Getting drafted that high (especially by the Lakers) means that he has a chip on his shoulder because everyone from the organization, the fans and even himself are expecting great things from him, so I see nothing wrong with the potential star of the franchise being confident in his game, trying to make plays; even when he occasionally forces one every now and then.
Let’s face it, there isn’t a handful of players on the team that have the abilities he does to make plays better than he can. I’d rather see him confident in his play-making abilities like he is right now than how tentative he was with the ball during Summer League and early on in the season.
I agree that too much of one thing (in this case, confidence) can work against him especially at this point of his career, but with the Lakers slowly starting to rebuild, I think Russell needs to continue trusting his game and improve through the growing pains that’ll only help his production later on.
Jabari Davis (@JabariDavisNBA): There’s absolutely nothing wrong with players showing confidence in their abilities while on the court. In fact, if paired with the right balance of humility and willingness to change or at least adapt, that’s precisely the temperament you want from a young guard.
Russell’s confidence may rub some the wrong way, but as long the 19-year-old still appears open to being “coached” whether by the staff or by his veteran teammates, his development will continue to progress.
If anything, even in the face of some of the game’s toughest lessons, it would behoove the organization to completely throw Russell into the fire for extended stretches over the last 30+ games. Similar to the way teammate Jordan Clarkson was eventually granted more and more responsibility throughout his rookie campaign in 2014-15, I’d like to see exactly what Russell is made of over final couple months.
It may, and likely will look ugly at times along the way, but he seems to have what it takes to persevere and capitalize on the opportunity with his confidence intact.
Nathaniel Lastrapes (@NathanielP2): There is a fine line that young players need to walk between confidence and cockiness. Some players, like Kobe, can be cocky and arrogant at a young age and have the talent to back it up. From the moment he was drafted, Kobe was a cocky 17-year-old who knew he was going to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
That being said, I do not see D’Angelo Russell as a cocky player, but rather a confident young guy who knows his potential in the league.
Maybe Russell will not be an all-time great like Kobe, but he certainly has the talent and basketball I.Q. to be a perennial All-Star someday. Byron Scott is seemingly doing whatever he can to deteriorate Russell’s confidence, which is detrimental to his growth as a point guard in the NBA. Despite Scott’s best effort to reduce Russell’s confidence, the 19-year-old continues to challenge Scott’s criticism on seemingly a nightly basis.
Russell is not wrong to feel the way he does about Scott’s coaching style that often leads to him sitting on the bench during pivotal moments of games, but he should not challenge Scott publicly in the media because it is not good for the locker room. D’Angelo’s confidence continues to develop as the season progresses, but he should keep his opinion to himself for the sake of team camaraderie.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): Both. D’Angelo Russell shows a confident exterior when talking to the media, but behind closed doors, there’s been talk of cocky attitude rubbing some the wrong way. Head coach Byron Scott obviously isn’t thrilled with Russell’s cockiness, but it could prove to benefit him in the long run.
Although Russell may be arrogant, I can’t help but remember Kobe Bryant as a brash rookie back in 1996. Bryant rubbed many the wrong way in his first few seasons with the Lakers. Kobe was an arrogant kid fresh out of high school who felt he was better than everyone. Bryant was dubbed “Showboat” early on for this kind of attitude, and it seems as though Russell is headed down the same path.
The real question is whether Russell can turn this attitude into a weapon on the basketball floor the way Bryant has his entire career. So far, it’s too early to tell if D’Angelo can be the future face of the franchise as the Lakers brass hopes he will be. His attitude may be a problem now, but it in the near future it may prove to be the edge he needed to take his game to the next level.
I’m not a fan of Russell’s cocky attitude, but I wasn’t a fan of Bryant’s either in the early days. Only time will tell if the attitude will turn him into a great player or someone the team will want to part ways with in the near future.
Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane): D’Angelo Russell definitely comes across as a confident young man. There are some moments when he toes the line, and can almost sound cocky or arrogant, but that’s a risk that comes with the territory of being a professional athlete.
After all, at 19, Russell is being asked to compete not just with adults, but with grown men who happen to be some of the most physically gifted athletes on the planet. That, along with the millions of dollars potentially at stake, means there is little room for self-doubt, as Kwame Brown can certainly attest to.
Even if Russell can’t consistently back up his bravado with his performance on the floor just yet, I’d rather have him firmly believe that he can become great than ride the high and lows of life as a professional.
Self-confidence can be a shield from negativity, and if he has to risk coming across as cocky in order to reach his peak then so be it. For now, his confidence is a good thing, especially given the nature of the Lakers’ season and Coach Scott’s tough love-style criticisms.
Maximo Gonzales (@MaximoBGonzales): Although many were shocked at the Lakers decision to draft Russell back in June, the purple and gold were convinced they are getting the next great point guard in the league.
Despite the early season struggles, Russell has come along quite nicely midway through the season. After a career-night against Sacramento Kings in which he finished with 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting to go along with four assists, Russell enticed Lakers faithful by saying, “Y’all ain’t seen nothing yet.“ So is it confidence or cockiness that Russell possesses? I say why not both?
Anybody fascinated by sports knows that any great player has no shortage of confidence, but is it really a bad thing to be a bit cocky as well? According to the Merriam-Webster, the definition of cocky means to be boldly or brashly self-confident.
You can’t be confident in yourself without at least being a little cocky first, especially when we’re talking about a 19-year-old in his rookie season playing on the biggest stage in basketball, in the biggest market in the NBA. I think the mentality this guy has is perfect the city of Los Angeles, but especially important at this point in his career where wins are hard to come by.