Los Angeles Lakers point guard D'Angelo Russell has turned heads with some recent comments on what it has been like playing under the watch of perhaps the most iconic figure in franchise history.
"It's like you're starting over and trying to impress," Russell said regarding what's changed since Magic Johnson took over as Lakers President of Basketball Operations last week. "Everybody has to look over their shoulders once again. It's like coming to a new team. You try to impress the GMs and the guys in the front office with your play and off the court, the way you handle yourself. It's just all different."
There is a sliver of optimism to come out of Russell's new approach, in the sense that he recognizes this as a make-or-break moment in his Lakers career with a first impression from Magic Johnson on the line. More so, however, it simply spurs a glaring question: Why does a former No. 2 overall pick need a front office arrival to motivate him as he approaches the home stretch of his second season in the NBA?
Fred Roggin and Rodney Peete dove into this topic right out of the gates during Monday's show.
"First of all, why would you even think about saying 'I'm going to try harder'? I mean, aren't you trying in the first place?" Peete said. "You're projected to be a superstar, let your play speak for itself. Just because there is new ownership or new coach or new management, whatever it is, it should not affect your game. Or the way you handle yourself off the court."
Both Roggin and Peete acknowledge that the one-and-done nature of college basketball has generated an increased learning curve for players as they enter the league. When a college athlete makes the jump to the NBA at age 19, it is realistic to assume they will need additional time to grasp what it takes to be a professional — both on and off the court.
For the Lakers, however, uncertainty looms surrounding how long the team can wait to allow Russell to grow up.
"Let me harken back to a guy named John Wall with Washington," Roggin said. "John Wall was projected to have a very good career, and quite frankly, his career started very slowly. He was not ready for the NBA. Six, seven years in now, the guy can play. But it took that long for him to mature. It took that long for him to grow.
"So if you look at it like that, D'Angelo Russell, are you going to give this guy six years to grow up? Isn't there a point in time where you saying 'we don't have six years D'Angelo'? And if you're not ready to go now, as the No. 2 pick in the draft, you're not ready to go."
Photo Credit Mark Meyers