On the opening night of All-Star Weekend, Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell tallied 22 points in the Rising Stars Challenge, helping the USA team earn a 157-154 victory over the World team. Russell shot 9-of-15 from the floor and also added seven assists in just 16 minutes of action. Prior to the game, Russell talked to Basketball Insiders about his rookie season and the significance of being a part of All-Star Weekend.
“Yes, it is. Very,” Russell said when asked if it was great to get away from his up and down season. “I can’t dumb it down any more. It’s definitely a great feeling.”
The All-Star Weekend is a nice reprieve from what has been a roller-coaster of a season for Russell. The rookie guard has had his share of highlights (including a career-high 27 point performance against the Sacramento Kings) and lowlights (such as getting benched by Lakers’ head coach Byron Scott after starting at the beginning of the year). Making matters worse for Russell is the impressive campaigns fellow-rookies like Karl Anthony-Towns, Kristaps Porzingis and (to a lesser extent) Jahlil Okafor are having.
It also can’t be easy playing in the shadow of Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour and on a team that has already lost 44 games. He’s been frustrated, but this weekend can be a nice vacation to refocus and propel his game to another level moving forward.
The No. 2 overall pick this summer sees the Rising Stars game as a stepping stone to the big prize—the All-Star game.
“It’s great to get this opportunity. You always dreamed of the main event — the All-Star East versus West game. But there are multiple events to be excited for, starting with this one.” Russell said.
“Heck yeah, that’s all I’ve been thinking about,” he said in reference to how this is the first step to getting to the big game.
The way you get to that next level is by learning from others. You get a lot of that with your team, but at All-Star Weekend, you are exposed to a whole other group of players. Russell is taking the opportunity to soak up all he can learn from the league’s best players.
“Take an advantage of it [the Rising Stars Challenge and All-Star weekend]. It’s definitely an opportunity to rest and get mentally prepared for the second half of the season,” Russell said. “But also, see where the rest of these guys at the top level, the main event, how they handle themselves as you’re around them more than you are usually.”
As players progress through their respective careers, they often take different parts of other people’s skill sets and add it to their arsenals. Russell has started doing that.
“There is always something you can add to your game,” Russell said. “It’s a good opportunity to watch these guys in person, it’s tough, and when you play against them, you can take something away, so it’s cool.”
There is only one part of All-Star Weekend that Russell doesn’t like—the cold weather.
“I hate it,” Russell said. “I hate it. I have nothing I can say positive about the weather, it’s bad, man.”
Who can blame him? When you play in Southern California and then have to deal with extremely cold temperatures, the change can be jarring.
Despite the rough weather, Russell certainly has the right mentality and will look to finish the season strong off his performance in the Rising Stars game.
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