D’Angelo Russell has played only two NBA games. But some are in a rush to make him his generation’s Sam Bowie.
Karl-Anthony Towns was the consensus first overall pick entering June’s NBA draft, and Minnesota snatched him at No. 1.
The Lakers selected Russell, a 6-foot-5 guard said to be the best passer available, instead of big man Jahlil Okafor, believed to be the most NBA-ready player. Philadelphia, picking third, gladly added him to its collection of big men.
And since summer league, Russell has shown fewer flashes of greatness than those picked around him. The scrutiny Russell has been under in some cases appears to be more about the Lakers’ inability to sign a marquee free agent, making Russell the team’s biggest acquisition.
It’s too early to make Russell a trivia question similar to Bowie, who was picked second overall by Portland in 1984 between Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan. Bowie, a center, was plagued by injuries during a 10-year NBA career.
The Lakers have hitched their future to Russell. But he’ll be linked to Okafor, who had 26 points in his debut but 10 points in his next showing.
When Byron Scott, was asked if he followed the play of Towns or Okafor closely, the Lakers’ coach said: “Not really. Why should I? I hope both of those guys – and I think they will – have great careers. But why should I care what they do? I care about what our guy does and what our team does. I don’t look at Philly; I don’t look at Minnesota; I don’t look at other teams. It’s not my concern.”
Russell had 13 points and two assists in 23 minutes as a starter in Friday’s loss to Sacramento and hasn’t made the splash other rookies have.
Then again, he’s played only two games.
D’Angelo Russell had 13 points and two assists in 23 minutes as a starter in Friday’s loss to Sacramento and hasn’t made the splash other rookies have.
There would be less scrutiny on Russell if the Lakers hadn’t flopped in their attempts to land a premier big man in free agency.
The Lakers had a plan.
But Plan A (as in Aldridge, LaMarcus Aldridge), fell through. The All-Star power forward signed with San Antonio.
The Lakers figured they’d find a cornerstone frontcourt player in the free-agent market but instead traded for center Roy Hibbert, a former All-Star in Indiana whom the Pacers were eager to move.
“I think just talking to those guys that we saw in the free-agent market, there were a ton of big guys,” Scott said. “So we felt in the free-agent market if we didn’t get the top guy – and you guys know LaMarcus was one of our targets – we still had a number of big guys we could go after that we felt we could get.
“So it made it that much easier in the draft to go after a point guard, and D’Angelo was our guy.”
It will take time for their guy to develop. He’s a guard on a team with a lot of guards who like to score.
It will take time for Russell to develop. He’s a guard on a team with a lot of guards who like to score.
The obvious one is Kobe Bryant. But Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams and Nick Young are also perimeter players who can take touches away from Russell.
But we’ll have a much better feel for Russell after 82 games.
Watch out for the Detroit Pistons.
You might not remember, but the Pistons played well last season before losing point guard Brandon Jennings to a torn Achilles’ tendon.
Jennings isn’t back yet, but point guard Reggie Jackson is, and the Pistons are 3-0. And center Andre Drummond could have a dominant season on the glass. He had 20 rebounds Friday night in an overtime victory against Chicago.
The New Orleans Pelicans, when healthy, look like a playoff team.
But the Pelicans, ravaged by injuries, have dropped their first three games by an average of 16 points. Golden State’s Stephen Curry torched them for 53 points on Saturday.
Anthony Davis is trying to carry a lot of players who normally wouldn’t play much, if any.