D’Angelo Russell Comments on Lakers’ Playoff Chances, Rookie of the Year Hopes

D'Angelo Russell is the most important player on the Los Angeles Lakers roster heading into his rookie season. That's a lot of pressure to put on a 19-year-old who has never played in an official NBA game, but the No. 2 pick in June's draft won't be intimidated by it.  

In an interview with Alex Kennedy of BasketballInsiders.com, Russell said his expectation is to be the NBA's best rookie in 2015-16: “I have been grinding all summer to put myself in that position."

The pressure on Russell is already high because the Lakers are very much in a transition period. Kobe Bryant is in the final year of his contract, and general manager Mitch Kupchak has said the former MVP could retire after the season. 

Going with a young nucleus around Bryant, which includes Russell and Julius Randle, could make this another difficult season for the Lakers in a loaded Western Conference. 

However, Russell isn't shying away from putting expectations on himself or the team heading into the season, per Kennedy: “Expectations are high, but this Lakers squad will most definitely be a playoff team."

These are normal quotes for any athlete during the offseason. If Russell said the Lakers are rebuilding and will lose at least 55 games for the third consecutive season, he likely wouldn't be allowed back in the locker room. 

Having expectations is a good thing, but reality doesn't always line up with them. Los Angeles fans should be thrilled if Russell and Randle are healthy for 82 games and consistently show the talent that has made them top-10 picks. 

Russell's confidence in himself and his teammates is a good thing, even if the Lakers don't end up making the postseason this year. He will be the focal point for Los Angeles, even with Bryant still around, because he will be the one tasked with leading the offense into the future. 

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