LAS VEGAS — Heading into an event that brings together some of the best talent in the world, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle both focused on establishing a competitive mind set on day one at USA Basketball training camp.
The day’s action at UNLV concluded with games of one-on-one between established stars and rising talents, and each Laker brought that fire against the likes of Kyrie Irving, Harrison Barnes and Emmanuel Mudiay.
However, both Lakers were most animated when going against one another.
In Russell’s eyes, it was clear who the victor was.
“Obviously I won,” Russell said. “He knows I won. I came out with a W.”
However, Randle saw it differently, lightheartedly charging his teammate of needing to cheat his way to a win.
Randle even accused Russell of a most-heinous hoops crime: playing NBA 2K with the sliders turned up.
“I stand by what I said, but we’ll run it back tomorrow,” Randle said. “We’ll let you guys be the official scorekeepers. We’ll go from there.”
Surely, there will be plenty of future rematches not only on Tuesday, but over the final three days of camp.
This energy for competition is exactly why Russell, Randle and rookie Laker Brandon Ingram were chosen for the USA Select Team in the first place.
The Select Team is composed of the top young, American talent, and its primary purpose is to challenge the U.S. Men’s National Team in practice as it prepares for next month’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
And while the future Olympians stay sharp against the NBA’s next generation of stars, members of the Select Team are able to learn from players that they otherwise wouldn’t get to practice with.
“I’m just here with the greatest players in the league right now,” Ingram said. “I think it’s a great start to start of my career here and try to learn from these guys and see what they do well.”
For Russell, that meant getting to match up against Irving, who — at just 24 years old — recently added a championship ring to his collection of accolades that includes three All-Star appearances, a Rookie of the Year trophy and MVP honors for Team USA at the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
“He’s coming off a championship, so he doesn’t have to be here,” Russell said. “He’s taking the time out to be here and represent the country. I got the opportunity to go against him. We played a few one-on-one games.”
While Russell matched up against Irving twice during his rookie season, he nonetheless relished the opportunity to go after him again and again in Las Vegas.
In particular, he welcomed the opportunity to bump up the physicality against Irving and others without referees on the floor.
“It was fun, man,” Russell said. “Just getting the opportunity to compete against some of the top pros in the league. This is a blessing to be here. So many guys get the opportunity, but to be one of those selected few, I just want to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Randle and Ingram echoed their point guard’s sentiment. For Randle, it was also an opportunity to get a closer look at Ingram, whom he practiced with briefly in Los Angeles before the latter played at Summer League last week.
Randle singled out the 18-year-old’s poise and approach to the game, while Ingram left impressed by the composure of his fellow forward.
“He was being a leader out there today,” Ingram said. “He’s a strong, athletic guy and he was just attacking the rim and doing the things that he does well. It was exciting to play there with him and D’Angelo today.”