Let’s face it, no matter how hard you try there is no tangible number you can come up with that represents how much D’Angelo Russell is worth to the Los Angeles Lakers. After being sidelined for 10 days with a sprained MCL, Russell’s absence was a harsh reminder that this team will only go as far as he takes them, whether it be this year or the next ten. It goes deeper than Russell’s stat line of 22 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds, when #1 is out there it FEELS like the Lakers are in the game. The way he controls the pace and makes sure his team is composed and ready to attack speaks volumes to his basketball IQ and his leadership skills. I was thinking D’Angelo was going to be on a minutes restriction tonight, but he quickly reminded the Denver Nuggets that his name must always have some respek on it.
Russell showed the NBA tonight why he is the nucleus, the brains, the glue of the Los Angeles Lakers. I think he has gotten to the point to where he can command the ball on every possession each time down the floor. Your most effective player must touch the ball at least once each time you control the rock, the times Los Angeles doesn’t get Russell a touch on the offensive end, they look horrendous. Once the ball ends up in his hands the Lakers offense begins to develop and run smoothly. The whole team runs up and down the floor with a sense of calmness that’s not present when he’s not on the floor.
D’Angelo didn’t do this alone, though. Ivica Zubac was a MONSTER tonight. I love this kid because he is scrappy. He does whatever it takes to get the job done. Scoring 17 points and pulling in 6 rebounds, Zubac is starting to make some noise among fans outside of #LakerNation. My perfect line up starting next year would be D’Angelo Russell at the 1, Jordan Clarkson at the 2, Brandon Ingram at the 3, and Julius Randle/Larry Nance Jr. at the 4/5 depending on who they were playing that night. But, if Zubac keeps playing like this don’t be shocked if he finds a starting spot somewhere in that line up of the future. He’s one of those guys who does a little bit of everything out on the floor, you can’t beat some good old fashioned hustle plays.
The whole team came out to play tonight against a very good Nuggets team. Los Angeles battled to the very end and pulled out a win against one of the future power houses of the Western Conference. More importantly though, Los Angeles learned something tonight and that is D’Angelo Russell is priceless to this franchise. This ship sinks or swims depending on him. Usually for a 20 year old that may seem like a lot of pressure, but when you got ice water in your veins like D’Lo, this is just a matter of time before the whole world knows who you are.