One of the top prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft, D’Angelo Russell, worked out for the Lakers at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo on June 8. The First Team All-American spoke with the media after his session. Below is a full transcription:
Q: On his workout with the Lakers:
Russell: It was a great first workout. It’s a great opportunity and an honor to be here.
Q: On what he needs to show in his workouts:
Russell: I don’t know. I’m not doing any three-on-threes or two-on-twos. It’s just me by myself, so I don’t really get to showcase my strengths at their top potential.
Q: On the difference between individual and group workouts:
Russell: I’ve got to just keep going hard. (The Lakers) did a great job of pushing me with the coaches. Those guys weren’t too old. They could move. So it was a great feel. … You couldn’t tell how old they were unless you looked at their grey hairs. It was great.
Q: On what he feels the Lakers are trying to get to know about him off the court:
Russell: I have no idea. I’ve got a great feel with the whole coaching staff and the front office. I don’t have a feel that they’re trying to get something out of me or whatnot. I feel like they’re just trying to bring in the best talent. Whatever decision they make will be a great one.
Q: On which NBA players have influenced his game:
Russell: I don’t think I’m similar (to anyone). I just try to really model my game after Steph Curry. He didn’t come into the league playing the way he’s playing now. It took some time. The player that he’s developed to be — I see a great resemblance. … His ballhandling is off the charts. His shot selection I can say is kind of similar to mine. But like I said, his work ethic to get him where he’s at I would say is similar to mine also.
Q: On playing with Kobe Bryant if he were to be drafted by the Lakers:
Russell: Kobe’s a great, so playing with him would definitely be an honor. I saw that he said he had a few years or one year left. But I’ve always dreamed of playing against him. And then having the opportunity to play with him would be a pleasure (and) gaining all the knowledge I can gain from him. He’s been around forever, so he’s been through almost every scenario and situation. So I’d definitely just try to gain the most knowledge I can.
Q: On playing with Bryant’s leadership style:
Russell: I feel like if you’re doing the right thing, you don’t have to worry about it. And I don’t think he’s going to lead you toward the wrong route. Definitely coming in and being a rookie and listening to him would be a great opportunity. And once you learn the strengths and how to play the game at this level, the sky’s the limit.
Q: On how comfortable he is playing off the ball, specifically with Bryant:
Russell: That’s fine. It gives me the opportunity to showcase my scoring and shot-making abilities. Getting (Bryant) the ball also; there’s also a lot of factor in paying attention to him. And he still manages to be great at that. I would definitely play my role.
Q: On the idea of needing to take a big instead of a guard with top picks:
Russell: I just want to go to a team where it’s a great fit for me and I can help the team in the best way I can and win as much as possible. Most of these teams are in the same situation to pick the top guys because they didn’t win. So I definitely know they want a guy to come in and help them win games. That’s my main focus. If that’s going to the No. 1 pick or third, fourth, fifth — whatever pick it is — it’s going to a team to help them win.
Q: On what stood out to him while having dinner with the Lakers’ basketball operations staff the night before:
Russell: I got a great vibe from them. It wasn’t the first time I met those guys, but I had a great vibe. And it gave me the opportunity to know that you never know who’s who, and I’ve seen a lot of those guys around before. So just recognizing that they’re everywhere and that they’ve always had an eye on me and a lot of other guys is just a blessing.
Q: On whether he has a preference for a certain team or city:
Russell: If I could be home (Louisville), that would be great. But we don’t have a pro team, so that’s my only preference.
Q: On whether he has any other workouts lined up yet:
Russell: I think I’m going to the Knicks after this. I’m not sure. I’ve got to check with my agent.
Q: On how his skill set will fit in the NBA:
Russell: The spacing’s different, and adjusting to the spacing in college … everybody was so cluttered. You can’t really pack it in the (NBA). I feel like I separated myself by just being able to pass and have that space. I feel like I’ll excel at that.
Q: On whether he feels that it may be easier to adjust to the pro game than the college one:
Russell: I’m not gonna say that. But just watching the game — spacing’s huge. And just just seeing how Steph Curry and those guys that can really pass, how they just maneuver, like (Rajon) Rondo and those type of guys. I kind of see myself doing the same thing.
Q: On if the previous night’s dinner felt like a job interview:
Russell: Not really. I only know how to be myself, so I can’t really put on an act for anybody. I got a great vibe from them, and we watched the (NBA Finals) game, so most of the attention was on the game and the bad calls. The focus really wasn’t on me.
Q: On his emotions with the entire draft process:
Russell: I’m just ready to know. This is the most devastating time. The fun starts when you know what team you’re on and what city you’re going to. I’ve just been focusing. It’s grind mode. I missed a million phone calls and a million text messages just because I’m focused and ready to really take my game to another level.
Q: On whether he considers himself more of a point guard or shooting guard:
Russell: (I’m) a basketball player. If I’m playing with Kobe, I’m definitely playing off the ball trying to get him shots. But if I’m in a different scenario where I have to be the guy that facilitates for everybody, I’m gonna be a point guard. When you add all that up, you’re just a basketball player. You don’t consider LeBron (James) a point guard, and he’s bringing the ball up the court. Whatever situation I’m in, I'm gonna try to make the best of it.
Q: On how he feels he will be able to perform defensively:
Russell: I feel like once I get the chance to showcase it, I’m definitely able to showcase it the best way I can. So I’m ready for it.
Q: On which positions he feels he can defend in the NBA:
Russell: Wherever coach puts me. I’m gonna try to take advantage of it the best way I can. If it’s me guarding a smaller guard, (I’ll) use my length. If it’s a bigger guard, I got to match his intensity. So wherever the coach puts me.
Q: On Emmanuel Mudiay, a fellow top point guard prospect:
Russell: He’s a great player. I feel like a lot of people are wide open on both of us, not knowing what we’re gonna bring to the table. So I feel like we’re in a similar situation where we’ve got to showcase what we do at our best and do more. But I don’t really take the time to evaluate his game. He’s worried about him. I’m worried about me.
Q: On why he went to the NBA Combine when many top prospects do not:
Russell: Like I said, I don’t really worry about anybody else. I went to just gain connections with a lot of people. There were a lot people in there that I can gain a relationship with in the future. It was more like a business trip for me.
Q: On his relationship with Karl-Anthony Towns:
Russell: That’s my guy. We’re in the same agency. I knew him before he kind of blew up. But we were living at the same building since we’ve been out here training. He’s a great kid.
Q: On whether they talk about who is going to be picked before whom:
Russell: That’s the hardest part: We don’t know what teams need — a big or a guard. But with his skill set, he can play big or guard.
Q: On why he says that he is the best player in the draft:
Russell: I truly feel that way, but I feel like you can ask anybody in the draft, and they would have said the same thing. But I just feel like I showcased it on many levels and was just put through so many scenarios where I had to make the best out of it, and I had a lot of success with it.
Q: On whether he enjoys being underrated, since he was not a major prospect coming out of high school:
Russell: I honestly love it. When people don’t pay as much attention to me, I thrive with it. That gives me an edge because I know what I came from, and I know the hard work I put in. I’ve got the confidence (in) my work ethic that I put in, so it just gives me that edge on the court.
Q: On not really having that edge now that he is seen as a top pick:
Russell: I don’t know. I feel like I can walk around and nobody knows who I am. I honestly like it.