NBA AM: Are The Expectations On Russell Too High?

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Unreasonable Expectations:  The worst part of sports is dealing with the unrealistic bar that gets set from hype and expectations – not only from fans but from the media.

For Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell, not only is he dealing with the massive expectations that come from being the second overall draft pick, he will forever be compared to the players that were drafted after him that, as of now, are adapting and adjusting to the NBA at a faster rate.

Factor in the burden of being the future of the NBA’s biggest franchise and there is an expectation that very few players could meet.

Russell’s slower start stems from a couple of areas, the biggest being that Russell has never trained or prepared at this level. A source close to Russell admitted this was the first time he really has weight trained and conditioned and that there has been an adjustment to not only training but resting and recovering (something a lot of young players struggle with).

Russell is also managing a lot of demands. Demands from his head coach, Byron Scott, who has a long track record of being tough on rookies. Russell has a lot more teammates that require the ball, something he’s never really dealt with before as he’s usually been the best player on his team and able to call his own shots. With the Lakers, he has a lot of people to keep happy and that’s been another part of the culture shock of the NBA.

People in Russell’s life have been offering support and advice, the biggest being that Russell simply needs to relax and play his game, noting that the rest falls into place when he is playing with confidence. The Brooklyn Nets game is a perfect example: Russell relaxed, found a groove and posted 16 points on 6-for-9 from the field (66.7 percent shooting). The problem for Russell is that for every good game he posts, he follows it up with a sub-par game and he’s been in his own head about it.

It’s easy to forget that Russell is just 19 years old and playing on one of the biggest stages in basketball. He also has to create for others, unlike third overall selection Jahlil Okafor or fourth overall selection Kristaps Porzingis.

Adjusting to life as an NBA point guard is not easy. Historically it’s taken young guards time to become who they will ultimately be, and in Russell’s case the reason he was drafted was a belief by the Lakers that his long-term ceiling would be higher than some of the other options on the board.

Time will tell if Russell can become the star the Lakers hope he’ll be, but for now he’s simply a rookie trying to adjust to a tough and demanding situation that almost no one else in the rookie class is having to manage.

That’s life as a Laker, and it’s also life as the second overall pick. Meeting the expectations of either is tough all by itself; combine them and few players could meet both even on their best day.

That Didn’t Take Long:  On paper, the Sacramento Kings have solid, experienced talent. The problem is the mix of hard-headed veterans and hard-headed coach were bound to collide and last night some things came boiling over as Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins returned to action in a 106-88 blow out to the San Antonio Spurs that put the Kings at 1-7 on the season and 1-5 at home.

“We got some issues that we got to carve out,” Cousins said to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. “Can’t really speak on that. But one thing is, us players, we got to stick together. And just with that, that’ll get us through most battles. We got some issues in-house we need to figure out.”

Cousins hinted that maybe it was time for the players to get together and talk through some things.

“It’ll be a players-only meeting,” Cousins said. “… Just to make it clear I believe in every single person in this room. We just got to stay together. That part I’m not worried about. But there are issues we need to figure out.”

“I feel like when those issues are fixed, the winning will come,” Cousins said.

Kings head coach George Karl said he knew his team was upset with where they stand, but felt like there was still plenty of time to sort things out.

“Right now it’s probably a little angry and frustrated and confused,” Karl said. “Fortunately we have a day tomorrow to straighten that out and get back on track.”

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