The Los Angeles Lakers young core of stars have each steadily made a name for themselves in the NBA. D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson have each emerged from different background situations and are flourishing in the NBA.
Russell’s journey from Kentucky didn’t start out smooth as other NBA players, but the beginning of his tenure in the NBA started off on a rough path as well. While competing against other coveted high school athletes at the Nike Elite 100 camp in 2011, Russell felt as if he was always placed in the underdog role.
For his smaller size and non-muscular build, you could see why many college coaches weren’t as sold on him. It was at that camp where Russell met Phoenix Suns’ guard Devin Booker. Now listed at 6’6″, Booker also had a different frame of body at a younger age and had this in common with Russell.
The two guards competed steadily at the camp, attempting to dominate the games and get their names heard by respective college recruiters. When the two were acquainted, they formed a bond based on the same competitive background.
In an article by Mark Medina of the O.C. Register, Russell alluded to why the two players share some common goals:
“That’s why we click so much,” Russell said. “We’ve been the underdogs before and we’ve worked to get to where we’re at now. We’re still underdogs. We’re always competing against each other for what we’re trying to get.”
Both players are each excelling in the NBA in their second seasons, after making statements during their first season. Russell was taken No. 2 overall by the Lakers in the 2015 NBA Draft, with Booker being selected by the Suns with the 13th pick.
Now both in the Pacific division, they coincidentally have four games pitted against each other every season. However, Russell won’t be competing in the matchup between these two teams on Friday at the Staples Center. Russell is still nursing his knee back to health after receiving the plasma injections.
Booker, on the other hand, has been steadily improving and developing his game. This season, he is averaging 19.0 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
The backcourt trio of Booker, Brandon Knight, and Eric Bledsoe has formed quite the rotation, with the ball residing in the hands of the guard-oriented offense. The duo will likely face off next during the following matchup between the two teams, on Feb. 15th.
Russell commented on how both players are respectively working hard on their games and will individually meet as premiere stars of the league if they continue on this path:
“If we keep that edge toward each other and always compete with each other …” Russell said, before trailing off. “At the end of the day when we look up, we’ll forget that we’re competing with just each other. We’ll be at the top of the pole.”
Russell and Booker headline the new era of stars that are entering the NBA, aside from the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis.
While the Lakers patiently wait for Russell to return to an otherwise injury-riddled roster, the organization understands his long-term health is more important in the grand scheme of things.