Los Angeles Lakers sophomore guard D’Angelo Russell knows that the team is looking to him to lead. In the wake of Kobe Bryant‘s retirement, someone has to step up and fill the void, and most believe that Russell is the player best suited to do that.
While Russell will almost certainly never equal Bryant’s level of play on the court, he does have natural leadership skills that should help the team stay organized during this transition period. With the Lakers clearly rebuilding, acting as the team’s compass will not be an easy burden to bear, but Russell appears to be up to the task.
The NBA posted a video to Twitter highlighting Russell’s leadership skills, showcasing the impact that he makes on the practice floor with his teammates:
— NBA (@NBA) October 7, 2016
In the video, Russell says, “Bringing that winning mentality and that toughness to the team starts with the point guard. Now everyone is looking at me to be a star point guard, so I gotta send a message early.” He’s well aware of the expectations that have been placed on him and accepts them with a maturity that is rare for a 20-year-old. We see him pull teammates aside and discuss strategy with them, something he did with rookie Brandon Ingram during the Las Vegas Summer League.
However, as valuable as Russell’s verbal encouragement is during practice, his play on the court in game situations will ultimately determine how successful he is in his effort to make the Lakers his team. He excelled in Las Vegas, even hitting a buzzer-beating, “Ice in my veins” three to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers, but struggled in the Lakers’ lone preseason game against the Sacramento Kings.
If Russell can get his game going this season and step up as a leader, his future, as well as the Lakers’, will look very bright.