Key to LA Lakers’ Future Hinges on Jim Buss’ Golden Boy, D’Angelo Russell

LOS ANGELES — Earlier this month, in a wide-ranging interview with USA Today's Sam Amick, Los Angeles Lakers part-owner Jim Buss spun the team's recent struggles with unmitigated positivity. For a franchise that has lost 116 games over the past two seasons and whiffed on superstar free-agent talent again this past offseason, the remarks seemed awfully far-fetched.

So why the rosy outlook, Mr. Buss? 

The answer is obvious yet fraught with risk: D'Angelo Russell, a rookie who's played zero minutes of meaningful NBA ball. Here's Buss:

If you watched (Russell) work out, if you heard what our scouts said about him and what they said about Okafor and other players, it got to the point where we could not pass on him. He's that special in a lot of people's books…And I think we might have made the right move with D'Angelo Russell. I think he might be something special. And if he is, then that's what I'm talking about. Somebody special is going to want to play with someone special, and then the dominoes fall. So yeah, I'm extremely confident.

In a phone interview with Bleacher Report last week, Russell referred to Buss' comments as "strong words" and completely understands how important it'll be to eventually meet the skyscraper expectations from an owner who likes to periodically touch base.

In so many ways, Russell is the key to everything, a potential bridge from one triumphant era to the next. The somewhat surprising second overall pick in a draft that featured two can't-miss big men, Russell will either thrust this team into the NBA's modern age—where perimeter-oriented playmaking is essential—or set them back 10 years. A 6'5" point guard with exceptional vision and a left hand made of velvet, there's no doubting Russell's highlight-reel potential. 

Watch him zip a bounce pass from one free-throw line to the other for an easy layup, or effortlessly manip...

About the Author