D'Angelo Russell had a lot of expectations on his shoulders during his rookie season as the heralded heir to Kobe Bryant's throne.
Now that the Black Mamba is in the rearview mirror, Russell is the unofficial leader of the Purple and Gold and as a sophomore, he is showing major improvements in his game.
It's like the change in coach at the Staples Center has had a lot to do with it. Byron Scott's tough love treatment and intermittent cold shoulders produced mixed results.
But under the ultra-positive Luke Walton, Russell is thriving.
But growing up, did he always want to be Kobe Bryant? Absolutely not.
His idol was/is San Antonio Spurs man, Manu Ginobili.
"See, it's different when you ask who your favorite player was. You can say those American guys who made their name, like Kobe and Allen Iverson and Shaq and all those types of guys," he said. "But I really look at it and say, if I could model my game after somebody [it would be Ginobili]."
"You try to go to what you're accustomed to," he said. "And Manu was never as athletic, but he could really pass the ball. He could score the ball, and he was just so unpredictable, and he was a lefty, so he was a player that I really prided myself on being."
Ginobili has had a fantastic career and his style is certainly crowd pleasing. If Russell goes on to become an All-Star and win four NBA titles, both he and the Lakers would be delighted.