It's been a rocky road for the 2015 number two draft pick, D'Angelo Russell. However, after dropping 39 points on the Brooklyn Nets last night, the rookie is cultivating his predicted superstar status at just the right time.
Sometimes it has appeared that the Kentucky-born star has struggled under the weight of his high draft pick and the sheer size of the task that rebuilding the Lakers has become.
His conflicts with head coach Byron Scott haven't been hard to decipher. Sporadic stretches on the bench in an effort to 'humble' Russell have been part and parcel of the Lakers second-worst league record of 12-49 that leaves them bottom of the Western Conference.
Article continues below
However, Scott promised to restore Russell to the starting line-up after the All-Star game in an effort to see his young core flourish. With the playoffs firmly and expectedly out of sight, the 20-year-old guard appears to have taken his opportunity with both talent-laden hands.
After draining a three from deep in the clutch against the Nets, the former Ohio State star cold be seen repeating: "Ice! in my veins!"
Article continues below
The celebratory comment was a nod to his calculated shooting, of which he was 14/21 en route to splashing a career-high eight three-pointers.
Russell insists the line was purely spur of the moment, saying: "To be honest, I was running out of celebrations. I thought of one, and it was the first thing that came to my mind."
Another stat that Russell can be proud of is his season high. His total of 39 eclipsed rookie year efforts from Lakers legends like Magic Johnson (31), James Worthy (28) and indeed, Kobe Bryant (24).
In his last three outings, the 6'5" point guard has picked up 83 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. To quantify those numbers, Stephen Curry has collected 21 assists in his last three appearances and the reigning MVP is playing the best basketball of his life.
On top of that, Curry turns out for the reigning NBA Champions, the Golden State Warriors. His stats were collected as part of three straight victories, whereas Russell grabbed 44 of his points and 11 of his assists in two defeats to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The supporting casts for the pair are night and day.
Of course, we can't compare the two. There is no comparison to Curry.
It is, however, a solid indicator of Russell's propensity to lead a faltering franchise like the Lakers back to their historical resting place at the West's summit.
Another interesting caveat to the Lakers win and Russell's performance was the notable absence of a certain number 24, who sat out the encounter with a sore shoulder.
Many voices in the media have speculated that Bryant's retirement tour may have hindered the growth of the young core at the yellow and purple's disposal.
A player with the shooting prowess of Kobe would typically be any team's go-to man. In the wake of Russell's recent performances and a Western Conference that concentrates on spacing the floor for point guards, the 37-year-old first-ballot Hall of Famer may consider a reduced offensive role down the season's stretch.
Would Byron Scott consider that?