After shining in the Rising Stars Challenge his rookie year, D'Angelo Russell got asked about getting unleashed in the exhibition while holding a limited role with the Lakers. Then-Lakers teammate Jordan Clarkson shot Russell a look and said, “Don’t say nothing crazy.” The implication: Don’t badmouth then-Lakers coach Byron Scott.
Just how did Clarkson know Russell might disparage their coach?
Because Russell literally went out of his way to make it clear.
When Scott yanked Russell, he’d take the long way back to the bench. Using his right hand, he’s tracing the looping route — from the left wing, meandering down toward the opposite baseline before finally curling to the deepest part of his team’s sideline. It wasn’t subtle. It was done with an obvious purpose.
“So I didn’t have to shake the coach’s hands,” Russell recalled. “I’d do little [s—] like that.”
Then he’d get to the bench, sit next to one of his teammates and grumble. Grumble about Scott, grumble about the imperfect situation he’d been drafted into, grumble like the teenager he was.
The Lakers did a poor job providing Russell the proper support. That starts with Scott. Russell was so young. He needed better guidance.
Russell must own his own immaturity in Los Angeles. He’s responsible for his own actions.
But the Lakers are the ones who suffered the consequences of not developing him.
All Los Angeles got from him was unloading Timofey Mozgov’s toxic contract, a season of Brook Lopez before he broke out as a peak modern center and a late first-round pick (that became Kyle Kuzma, but wasn’t clearly so worthwhile at the time). That’s not nothing, but Russell could have provided more value than that.
Russell was talented. He showed that with the Nets. He’s showing it with the Warriors.
I highly recommend reading Slater’s fantastic profile of Russell in full. It’s a great look into how Russell made that evolution.