Laker Kids Randle, Russell Pushing Too Hard in Eagerness to Be Great

LAS VEGAS — If there was any doubt that Julius Randle and D'Angelo Russell sensed the excitement over them from all around the Los Angeles Lakers and their fanbase, listen to them articulate the pressure and disappointment they felt Monday night.

Randle: "Everything starts with me. I've got to be better. End of story."

Russell: "Every game matters to me. And me being competitive, I forget it's just summer league. I'm trying to get better so fast instead of being patient and letting it come to me."

The Lakers whiffed on marquee free agents again and remain unclear on what level of health or excellence can be expected from Kobe Bryant's presumed final season, so there is a level of uneasiness, of course.

What has been interesting, though, is that the lack of proven commodities has forced the Lakers to accept the reality of rebuilding: Invest in young talent.

Massive crowds—which forced the opening of the curtained-off upper deck at the Thomas & Mack Center—have been hugely enthusiastic to watch the Laker kids' first three games in the NBA Summer League. (On Sunday, when the Lakers didn't play, everything at the venue turned quiet and minor-league, as if the circus had left town but the sideshow acts remained.)

There is something special happening for Lakers fans with the pure hope of homegrown youngsters becoming winning Lakers after quick-fix, sure-thing imports Dwight Howard and Steve Nash proved to be such ill fits.

This uncharted territory requires Randle, 20, and Russell, 19, to prove themselves worthy explorers. Before they can become Kareem and Magic or Shaq and Kobe, they must be Lewis and Clark. They need to find a path through the rugged Western Conference and establish safety and success on their own.

They know what is expected of them, and they welcome the challenge. But for now, that challenge comes with...

About the Author