Maybe not so off- the- wall, af­ter all

Lak­ers’ se­lec­tion of Rus­sell shook up the NBA; now he looks to do same with his play.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike Bres­na­han

Some­time be­tween show­ing up for his first work­out and fin­ish­ing his sec­ond one for the Lak­ers, D’An­gelo Rus­sell had a chat with Mitch Kupchak.

The Lak­ers gen­eral man­ager pointed to the walls at the team train­ing fa­cil­ity in El Se­gundo. His tar­gets were ob­vi­ous — the large jersey cutouts on the walls. The re­tired play­ers who made a dif­fer­ence in Lak­ers history.

The sym­bol­ism might have been syrupy to a cynic. Not to Rus­sell, a one- and­done player at Ohio State look­ing to make his mark on a 67- year old fran­chise a long way from his home­town of Louisville.

“There’s so many names you can name- drop from the Lak­ers. To be one of those guys that could be in that cat­e­gory, his words re­ally hit me,” Rus­sell said dur­ing a quiet mo­ment af­ter the Lak­ers made him the No. 2 over­all pick in Thurs­day’s NBA draft. “You name the Lak­ers on the wall, you’re ba­si­cally

nam­ing the top guys in this world that ever played this game.”

The Lak­ers picked Rus­sell over the safer choice, Duke cen­ter Jahlil Okafor. It was a toss- up to the end. Fans at Bar­clays Cen­ter even started chuck­ling when the Lak­ers ran out of time on the f ive- minute clock for their first- round pick. It was only the sec­ond se­lec­tion of the night. Al­ready a de­lay?

Rus­sell and his ta­ble of six weren’t laugh­ing.

“Man, that was a beat­ing for me,” he said, the ag­o­niz­ing wait fi­nally end­ing when his agent, Aaron Mintz, got the phone call re­veal­ing the Lak­ers’ choice. “The cam­eras started run­ning my way. [ NBA Com­mis­sioner] Adam Sil­ver came to the stage. My dad looked into my eyes and said, ‘ You thought you were built for this. What are you shak­ing for?’

“Be­fore I could even an­swer, Adam Sil­ver started an­nounc­ing and my dad just started tear­ing up. My broth­ers were mak­ing noises and lit­tle re­marks. I couldn’t stop from tear­ing up a lit­tle bit.”

Most Lak­ers of­fi­cials pic­ture Rus­sell in the back­court next to Jor­dan Clark­son, both play­ers equally com­fort­able with scor­ing or pass­ing, keys to any guard tan­dem in the NBA mini­trend to­ward a po­si­tion- less of­fense.

The Lak­ers could im­me­di­ately shift the ag­ing Kobe Bryant to small for­ward and let the fu­ture be­gin Sept. 29, the day of their first train­ing- camp prac­tice in Honolulu.

Clark­son came on strong last sea­son as the Lak­ers’ start­ing point guard, av­er­ag­ing 15.8 points, five as­sists and 4.2 re­bounds in 38 games. He was a rookie but, be­cause he was a sec­on­dround pick, would be go­ing into a con­tract year in 201516.

If any­body had a prob­lem with the Lak­ers’ se­lect­ing a point guard, it would be Clark­son.

No chance. Not his na­ture to be en­vi­ous. Or threat­ened.

In fact, he said, he was nap­ping when the Lak­ers made the pick.

“I woke up and saw all the phone calls. It was cool, though,” Clark­son told The Times. “I’m try­ing to win games. You can’t win games with­out tal­ented play­ers and guys around you. I’m def­i­nitely look­ing for­ward to next year.” How so? “A back­court with D’An­gelo and me in it, I think we’re very ver­sa­tile. We both can score the ball,” Clark­son said. “He passes the ball prob­a­bly a lit­tle bet­ter than me. He has great court vi­sion. We’re both big.”

In­deed, they’re each 6 feet 5. And quick.

For what it was worth, New York Knicks Pres­i­dent Phil Jack­son said the Lak­ers prob­a­bly passed on Okafor be­cause they “took out the tape mea­sure,” a ref­er­ence to Okafor’s be­ing less tall than his 6- foot- 11 list­ing at Duke.

Jack­son added that the Lak­ers “made a f ine choice” by se­lect­ing Rus­sell.

Af­ter a long day in New York, in­clud­ing two hours of media obli­ga­tions mainly with peo­ple he had never met, Rus­sell was still smil­ing.

“L. A. is one of the most beau­ti­ful cities in the world. Just to get the op­por­tu­nity to play for this beau­ti­ful fran­chise is a bless­ing,” he said.

Nance’s deleted tweet

Larry Nance Jr. took to Twit­ter soon af­ter be­ing drafted 27th over­all by the Lak­ers. It wasn’t merely to give an oblig­a­tory shout- out to fans — it was to re­move an inf lam­ma­tory tweet about a new team­mate.

Shortly af­ter the Wy­oming for­ward’s name was an­nounced as the new­est Laker, a Nance tweet from three years ago re­gard­ing Bryant started mak­ing the rounds on so­cial media.

The tweet re­ferred to Bryant’s past le­gal trou­ble in Colorado and was deleted late Thurs­day night.

“Gee I sure hope Kobe can keep his hands to him­self in Den­ver this time,” the tweet said, ac­com­pa­nied by the hash­tag “rapist.”

Bryant was ar­rested in July 2003 on sus­pi­cion of sex­ual as­sault in Ea­gle, Colo. Crim­i­nal charges were dropped and he set­tled a civil law­suit.

Kupchak said he was un­aware of the tweet un­til af­ter draft­ing Nance.

“I’ve spo­ken to Larry Nance Jr., and I’m not in a po­si­tion to re­ally share in­for­ma­tion, but it is some­thing that [ Nance and Bryant] will have to dis­cuss amongst the two of them,” Kupchak said. “My un­der­stand­ing, it’s some­thing that hap­pened years ago, and in to­day’s world, things don’t go away, which doesn’t make it any less of­fen­sive be­cause it was said three or four years ago.”

Bryant is on va­ca­tion in Costa Rica this week.

Nance has bat­tled back from a torn knee lig­a­ment and lives with Crohn’s dis­ease. He was also drafted by the Har­lem Glo­be­trot­ters ear­lier this week. His fa­ther played in the NBA for 13 years, win­ning the league’s f irst slam dunk con­test in 1984.

Kathy Wil­lens As­so­ci­ated Press

SAY THIS for D’An­gelo Rus­sell, he doesn’t lack am­bi­tion. He aims high ... like, re­tired- jersey level.

Charles Rex Arbogast As­so­ci­ated Press

LAK­ERS DRAFT CHOICE Larry Nance Jr. might have some ex­plain­ing to do to new team­mate Kobe Bryant re­gard­ing a 3- year- old tweet.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.