The outwardly fearless 19-year-old all but guaranteed to Kennedy the Lakers would make the playoffs in 2015-16, telling him “Expectations are high, but this Lakers squad will most definitely be a playoff team.”
Yes, he’s saying the same Lakers team who finished 21-61 last season — with only Russell, Julius Randle, Roy Hibbert, and Lou Williams added this offseason — will make the playoffs in the Western Conference, where 50 wins might not be enough to get in. But he’s 19, so maybe we give him a break.
Remember, some nincompoop wrote in June that NBA rookies are all just kids, and we should remember that after every PR hiccup they run into during their transition to the pros. That same mid-cult moron also said the Roy Hibbert trade was the best sneaky move of the summer, so maybe he let all the summer-time sun turn his brain into mush.
How many times are we supposed to excuse Russell, who has made a habit out of putting his foot in his mouth this summer. Even if some of what he says will leave 90 percent of NBA fans nodding in agreement, that other 10 percent has an unusual amount of purple and gold in their closets.
So perhaps his seemingly misplaced optimism is an attempt to suture up that frayed relationship with fans? Perhaps, he was being serious when he said he had the same mentality as his all-time teammate. Or perhaps we should wonder about his CAA reps, who should edit the rookie a bit more before Bean really loses his patience?
It’s impossible to ascertain the motives behind what a teenager says, even the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft who dresses this fresh on draft night.
Every 24-hour cycle seems so large when you’re that age, and there’s not much thought beyond that night’s dinner choices, or who they’re feeling on Spotify. Impulsivity is a characteristic all teenagers share, even the incredibly gifted athletes who find themselves on the precipice of reaching their life-long dream less than a year from first being allowed to vote.
But someone should at least let Russell know how bad L.A. was on defense last season, and how many miles Kobe Bryant has logged pounding up and down on an NBA hardwood. Yeah, Roy Hibbert is the rim presence they’ve needed on defense, and Vino’s presence might open up some looks for Julius Randle in high-block region, but this isn’t the Lakers team he grew up watching on TV. It’s the one that’s only won 48 games over the last two seasons, and hasn’t even sniffed the playoffs in that time. It’s a Lakers team that’s kept their fans unusually mum on their chances for the coming season. It’s a Lakers team hopefully humbled just a bit by the possibility of continued mediocrity.
Maybe D’Angelo is just what L.A. needs to burst out of their slow decline, or maybe he’s writing checks before train camp even begins that his rookie-scale deal can’t ever hope to match. The Lakers aren’t making the playoffs next season, but Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and his mentor/savant/teacher Kobe might be the only players who don’t know that yet.