NBA rookie D’Angelo Russell has more on his plate this season than just basketball.
The No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft has the hopes of an entire city on his shoulders.
While it is certain that the 6’5″ point guard has the physical talents to make an impact this season, it’s not yet certain that he will mentally be able to handle the demands of playing in the post-Kobe era.
In his freshman campaign with Ohio State, Russell averaged 19 points, five assists, and just under six rebounds per game.
Impressive numbers for a the McDonald’s All-American.
The fan base has already been energized by Russell’s summer league exploits, despite a lot of Summer League reaction that wasn’t typical of championship city or fan material.
But these accolades may not be enough to silence the doubt that has been expressed about the organization over the last four seasons – even if they are the Lakers.
Russell will have to do more than be good this season for the city of LA to be satisfied, but with teammates like Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle in the picture, it’s good news that he won’t have to do it alone.
He’ll have to be great, sooner or later — at least show flashes of greatness if nothing else — Laker fans have grown to expect no less.
And they have plenty of reason to do just that.
It may not seem fair to put this level of expectation on such a young man, but it’s the reality.
And the fact that Russell will share the back court with Kobe this season will make the expectations that much higher.
Russell will be in the locker room, on the practice floor, and in game situations with Kobe, so it seems rational to assume he’ll mature faster than most when surrounded by a guy like Bryant.Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
But what about when Mamba leaves?
With all of this pressure in the air, will the 19-year old Russell be able to meet the lofty goals of a championship-or- bust city.
Russell’s career can’t be mapped out before he’s ever touched a ball during a regular season game – that wouldn’t be close to fair.
Russell has the potential to shine in the city of stars, but he may never get the opportunity to be just a rookie and make rookie mistakes.
That may be the hardest part about coming into this situation.
With all the uncertainty present about Russell’s immediate impact, there is one thing that is certain.
Whether he succeeds or fails, his career is going to have a significant effect the psyche of LA for seasons to come.
Come good, come bad, or come ugly.