Jerry West watched a young phenom 19 years ago obliterated one of the Los Angeles Lakers defensive pillar, Michael Cooper in a closed-gym workout. It was brief and intense, and although Cooper was already semi-retired, he was regarded as one of the greatest perimeter defenders of all time. Kobe Bryant just destroyed him. It only took 30 minutes before Jerry West said “Okay, I’ve seen enough.”
There were no “Kobe Bryant closed-gym workout” moments that happened with D’Angelo Russell this 2015 draft. However, the Los Angeles Lakers took him right next to Karl Anthony Towns as their second overall pick. It was a bit of surprised when the Lakers could have chosen a safer pick with the much polished big man in the draft in Jahlil Okafor. Los Angeles has a rich history of franchise centers, from Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’neal; no-brainer Okafor sits rightfully there. But have you ever have moments when you know what you want, but you got an inkling feeling that you might be wrong? Centers are a dying breed in this era. The paradigm shift in basketball have changed rapidly. Tweeners (players that can play multiple positions) have been a hot commodity rather than the traditional ones. “Small ball” basketball has been an in thing right now with how the Golden State Warriors outwitted and outrun the Cleveland Cavaliers into their first championship in 40 years. The Lakers and Knicks once glamourous franchise are now punch lines rather than the top destinations of MVP caliber players. Somehow drafting Russell makes perfect sense, since Kobe is battling father time and will be hanging up soon, and the Lakers now without top tier players are clearly a rebuilding team.
For years the Lakers flirted with Rajon Rondo. He seemed to be a perfect match for Kobe but it never materialized. Rondo never outgrown his ball hogging and can’t shoot stigma days and pairing him with Kobe, who demands the ball most of the time is a clear equation for a disaster. D’ Angelo Russell plays similarly to Rondo but with Stephen Curry’s shooting touch. This is the type of player who can shoot and who loves to pass. He is not super athletic but he plays intelligently like James Harden. Coach Byron Scott would love to nurture Russell, with Scott’s resume guiding Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving with Paul and Irving earning the Rookie of the Year award under his guidance. Russell could develop into a perennial all-star point guard in the NBA.
Watching this video, it doesn’t take a Jerry West to see and say “Okay, I’ve seen enough.”
From Wilt Chamberlain, to Shaquille O’neal… the Lakers also have Jerry West and Kobe Byrant …
Indeed legends come in different sizes.
The Lakers might be wrong in drafting Russell, we never know.
This is the new NBA, a new brand of basketball and the Lakers embraced changed and took a risk and drafted Russell, something they’ve done when they took an unknown high school player at Lower Merion High school in 1996. Kobe Bryant.