The second overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, D'Angelo Russell, received his purple and gold jersey at the Lakers practice facility on Monday. Below is a transcript of his introductory press conference, including his thoughts on taking on the league's top guards and playing alongside Kobe Bryant.
Q: Opening statement:
Russell: It’s a blessing to be here. I was extremely shocked to be here. I didn’t think it was going to pan out the way it did. Now, like (Larry Nance and Anthony Brown) said, I’m ready to get to work.
Q: On his life since being drafted:
Russell: It’s slowed down a little bit, but I can still remember when I just graduated high school and (went) to college for a few months. Now I’m here for one of the best franchises ever. The ride has been crazy but blessed. I can’t complain at all.
Q: On previously saying he wants to play like the Showtime Lakers:
Russell: I really want to be known for working hard and then let the Showtime come along. (The Lakers) aren’t used to losing. This is one of the most winningest franchises ever, so the Showtime usually comes with winning. So when we can win games … that’s when it starts being fun.
Q: On what about being drafted by the Lakers surprised him:
Russell: Just the whole process. The process is what really surprised me. The cameras really gave it away. The cameras were right at me when the time ran out. I’m sitting in the green room. My dad and I were having a little chat with my family. Then the cameras came at me, and Adam Silver walked on the stage and said my name. I was just shocked. I wasn’t expecting to go so fast. But I’m not shocked to be here; just more shocked at the process.
Q: On whether he has already sensed the expectations being set for him.
Russell: Definitely. It’s a high pick. They’re not used to getting a top five pick, so the expectations are high. There are rumors, but I’m happy. My mentality is: “Learn from the best and just keep working and grinding.” So I’m not even worried about it.
Q: On if he’s spoken with Kobe Bryant yet:
Russell: I actually talked to him yesterday for the first time. He said he’s heard great things about me. My mentality’s really what separates me from a lot of guys. I just told him I’m a sponge. Whatever he’s willing to teach me, I’m willing to learn.
Q: On what he wants to learn from Bryant:
Russell: Everything. He’s one of the greatest. A lot of guys could sit here and say that, but I always knew he was one of the greatest to play the game. Just to get this honor to play with him is remarkable. I can’t really explain it.
Q: On how he feels after having the time to process being picked by the Lakers:
Russell: I feel like my emotions are still high. Every time I go back to think about what I’ve been through and where I’ve came from — and what my family’s been through also just trying to keep me down the right path — my emotions are still high. It hasn’t really set in for me. Every time I go look at an old picture or something like that, the emotions hit me. I can’t really put a nail on it.
Q: On playing under head coach Byron Scott:
Russell: I know he’s had a lot of success with his guards. So just talking from a personal standpoint, he’s a guard-oriented coach (and) a players’ coach. He knows what he’s talking about. He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t. He’s been around the top players to play the game. To be playing under a coach that has the knowledge and the credibility gives you an advantage.
Q: On his knack for putting spin on his passes:
Russell: Honestly, itt was just something that I grew up playing in the park. You start to find these little niches with the basketball. It was not something that I was taught. If you so, you would have seen it before (laughs). It’s just something that I grew up on.
Q: On what he wants to display at Summer League:
Russell: Whatever Coach needs me to do. I’ve always been a guy that feels like he can adjust to whatever situation. If it’s me playing off the ball (or) me creating for guys and that being my only role, I’m up for the challenge. I know that guys stick around in this league for having multiple things that they do (well), but that one thing that they do great helps them stick to a team.
Q: On the Lakers’ young core:
Russell: The growth that these guys put together with the pieces — us three and then the other younger guys they have to really build around Kobe, (who) you don’t really know how much he has. But the pieces that we can be to help get this show back on the road is something that I can’t really explain, but I definitely want to be a part of that. It’s a program that’s not used to losing. To have the honor to be here and know that you’re one of these valuable pieces that’s trying to get this show back on the road is a good feeling.
Q: On playing alongside Jordan Clarkson:
Russell: I’ve watched over time. I’m a guy that can play with anybody. Everybody’s talked about Clarkson and me playing over each other. If that’s Coach’s decision, that’s his decision, but I’m a guy that can play with anybody and make the best out of it.
Q: On whether he considers his strength as a point guard:
Russell: I consider myself a basketball player. If that’s me playing off the ball or being that main facilitator to get guys involved, I’m willing to do it if it’s evenly balanced.
Q: On how if he considers himself one of the top athletes in the draft:
Russell: I consider myself the top basketball player in the draft. If that’s me being the most athletic guy or non-athletic, I’m gonna get the job done.
Q: On Scott comparing him to Magic Johnson:
Russell: He’s a great, but I’m honest with myself. I’m not the basketball player that he is. That’s something I’m working to become. But for him to say that, he sees the potential. But I can’t get too high off that (and) I can’t get too low if he said I was somebody else. I’m still taking it into consideration and just keep working.
Q: On whether he has spoken with Bryant yet:
Russell: I actually got to talk to him yesterday for the first time over the phone. He was working out, and he said he would call back. He called back and was just talking about the good things he’s heard about me. I just wanted to let him know that I’m a sponge. And I really want to know if he’s able to take me under his wing and be a mentor toward me and show me the ins and outs of this league; to be successful and stick around. That’s the main thing that I got from our message.
Q: On his first impressions of Los Angeles:
Russell: I’ve just started to come to the West Coast. I’m not from this side, but I can’t complain. The weather’s great. I know everybody lives here, and everybody wants to be here. Just the opportunity to say this is home is a blessing.
Q: On his mind set preparing to face point guards like Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook:
Russell: Those guys I’ve been growing up watching for the longest (time). I know the first go-around playing those guys will (give me) a great feel; just trying to gain an edge the best way I can. Then the second run, I’ll have a better feel for it playing them for a second time. I’m just really trying to prepare for it the best way I can. Prepare for it in practice, so when I get to it in the game it won’t be something brand new for me.
Q: On what he wants to learn from Bryant:
Russell: Playing with a guy like Kobe, watching him develop and watching him in interviews and more like off-the-court business (and) the way he carries himself. He just gives you better knowledge of the business-like approach you have to have. It just came second-nature toward me. … I feel like it separated me a lot. (I have) God-given talent and the blessings He gave me, but my edge is I’ve always been a guy that was overlooked. So I respect my work ethic and where I came from to get to this point. So the edge on my shoulders is bigger.
Q: On being part of the Lakers’ young core:
Russell: It’s a building piece. The development and skill development that the coaches are taking upon themselves and the youth that we have on this team, I feel will go together. The more chemistry that we build on and off the floor will help us grow together.
Q: On his approach against the league’s best guards:
Russell: Going against some of the top guards every night, you can’t feel like you’re quicker than somebody that you’re not quicker than. You can’t feel like you’re stronger than somebody you’re not stronger than. I feel like it’s all about gaining that edge. What do I do better than that guard? What’s my advantage?
Q: On his impression of Clarkson:
Russell: I watched him in college a lot, not really in the NBA. I know he’s an explosive guard. He’s fast. He’s bigger than most guards. I look at it more as, he’s a guy that I can definitely play with. He’s versatile also. He can play off the ball, with the ball. I think it gives us the advantage to be young and (able) to go together.