The Los Angeles Lakers gave up on D’Angelo Russell. The first of L.A.’s three consecutive No. 2 picks, Russell was jettisoned to the Brooklyn Nets along with Timofey Mozgov’s contract to open up the cap space that would eventually lead to the Lakers signing LeBron James.
Russell has since developed into an All-Star, leading the upstart Nets to a 29-29 record and the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the No. 2 picks the Lakers held onto, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, have struggled with consistency. Ingram, especially, has struggled to fit next to LeBron.
Russell, however, credits James with helping him make the leap to becoming an All-Star player. During a sit down with Bleacher Report’s Leo Sepkowitz, Russell detailed the advice LeBron have him in the offseason.
I actually reached out to LeBron this summer,” he says. Russell asked: “‘What’s the best thing for becoming consistent?’ He’s like, ‘You have to be prepared mentally to go out and dominate every game, and then your teammates will follow that.’
Russell’s followed LeBron’s advice and is averaging career highs in points, assists, and three-point shooting percentage. He’s got the Nets in position for their first playoff birth since the 2014-2015 season. Though he credits LeBron for helping him find consistency, he also empathizes with the pressure the young Lakers face playing alongside James.
I can’t imagine what they’re trying to block out,” Russell says. Later, he adds: “If didn’t let me go then, they were gonna let me go now, and I’d be going through what they’re going through.
Russell is an example of what can happen when young players are afforded a little patience and guidance. Will Ball and Ingram follow the same growth curve, and if so, will it be in Los Angeles?