D'Angelo Russell arrived at the L.A. Lakers last summer as the number two pick in the 2015 draft. With the franchise declining to record lows and Kobe Bryant riding off into the sunset, the pressure was on the young guard from the get-go.
Many might argue he didn't live up to expectations last season after failing to play his way into the NBA All-Rookie First Team on top of spending plenty of time on the pine thanks to a frosty relationship with then-head coach Byron Scott.
The 20-year-old point guard is currently representing the Lakers on a tour of China, but he remains focused on returning a better player next season after the Purple and Gold propped up the Western Conference last season with a record of 17-65.
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Russell was asked about how often he is working out during his trip to Asia and the Kentucky-born star had a response that will encourage the beleaguered Lakers fanbase.
“Every day. … Every day,” Russell told the L.A Times. “I actually said I wasn’t going to take this trip if I couldn’t [work out]. The only other place I’ve been to out of the country is Mexico, and China is my second place. So I didn’t want to go if I couldn’t get the time in the gym.”
“I feel like I have something to prove, man. It’s a dedication thing.”
Russell may have a lot to prove to show he deserved the high draft pick, but he also has something to prove to an expectant L.A. faithful. His reputation suffered greatly after the debacle with Nick Young towards the end of the regular season, but he also showed what he can do with a 39-point explosion against the Brooklyn Nets just weeks before that.
The Ohio State product feels the latter is what will define him.
“I’ll let my game speak for itself,” he said.
Luke Walton's impending arrival is also exciting news for everyone connected with the organisation, but Russell is especially excited to work with a coach that understands a young player's mind and, perhaps, has a different mindset to the old school Scott.
“I’m beyond happy,” Russell said. “I’ve heard so much about him. Kobe [Bryant] even said Luke is one of the top two coaches in this league in this day and age. I’m just looking forward to being coached and pushed.”
Most of all, Russell wouldn't change his up and down debut season for the world. In the grand scheme of things, he'll be a better player and a better man for it, and that can only be good news for the Lakers.
“I’m glad it all happened. Honestly,” Russell said. “I’m glad I went through all those -- I don’t know -- all those adversities, different sets of adversities. I think it shows your true character. It’ll only make me stronger.”