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NBA PM: It’s Not Easy Being A Laker

The expectations Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell faces will be greater than any other rookie in the class.

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It’s Not Easy Being A Laker:  In MLB, there’s the Yankees and then there’s everyone else. In the NFL, the Cowboys are the biggest dog on the block. In the NBA, there is no bigger fan base than Laker Nation.

You may not like those teams, but there is little doubt those are the teams with the broadest reach among fans and media.

There is also no denying the power and pressure that comes from being “the” marquee franchise of a sport. There are benefits to it for sure, but anyone that’s pulled on a Lakers jersey will tell you that the expectations, pressure and spotlight of being a Laker shines brighter than anywhere else in the NBA.

For D’Angelo Russell, the Lakers’ second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the magnitude of his new situation as a player is very real.

“When we lose, it’s not like we let ourselves down or the team down, we let the whole Laker Nation down,” Russell said to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. “That’s a worldwide nation. I wouldn’t say it’s a whole lot of pressure, more like we’ve got to get it done.”

Russell has tried to downplay the expectations that come with his new team, but there is no denying that he will live under a different set of expectations than almost anyone else in his peer group.

An off night for a player in Minnesota isn’t going to make the national news quite the same as an off night for a Laker – especially for Russell, who was drafted a bit higher than most expected when the draft process started in April.

Russell’s performances will also get unfair comparisons because he was drafted ahead of Philadelphia 76ers big man Jahlil Okafor, the likely front runner for Rookie of the Year. Add in a less than stellar Summer League showing and the stage is set for Russell to be torn down on a nightly basis in ways almost nobody in his draft class will, outside of maybe New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis.

The upside for Russell is if he can meet expectations, or exceed them, his world could open up in ways no other player in the draft could imagine. That’s the double-edged sword of being a Laker.

The stage is set in L.A. for a superstar to emerge; the task of filling that role will come with unrelenting pressure but also the potential to become major NBA star.

Time will tell if Russell can emerge as that star, but along the way it’s not going to be easy being a Laker.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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