The Los Angeles Lakers are presently in their post-Kobe Bryant era. This Lakers team are playing their first NBA season without Bryant since the 1995-1996 season, and the past few years, they have built this team around players such as D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle in the past few drafts. Add in recent top draft pick Brandon Ingram and the Lakers have a potential nucleus that could make the team successful in the long run. So far this season, the Lakers are 15-26, in which they are two games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
Russell is averaging 15.7 points per game while also averaging 4.6 assists per game. Randle is averaging 13.9 points per game, but leading the team in rebounds with 8.7 per game. But like any young team, growing pains are inevitable. Last season, in Randle and Russell’s inaugural season with the Lakers, the team finished 17-65. So far, the Lakers have nearly matched their win total from last season, but along the way, Russell and Randle had to learn how to be professionals so they can take their talents to the next level. The L.A. Times‘ Tania Ganguli wrote on how Russell and Randle realized that routine is an important component to their development.
“Working hard wasn’t the problem for Russell. The issue was his willingness to schedule that work an stick to that schedule day after day. While in the past he practiced shooting intermittently, now Russell schedules that time.
“Sometimes he lifted weights before practice, sometimes after. Now he always does it after.
“The stretches are the same every day.”
Russell learned the importance of routine in an NBA season. Famed shooting guard Ray Allen had a daily routine which he never broke. From which foods he would eat to what time he took a nap, Allen’s routine helped build up his confidence and keep a string of consistency over his NBA career.
“I had no idea a routine is what I needed,” Russell said. Now he credits that routine with allowing him to feel more comfortable in everything he does on the court.
Randle has been getting energy the past few games, although sacrificing sleep and time due to the arrival of his first child on December 23 of last year.
“As for Randle, the energy and intensity Walton has seen lately certainly isn’t due to getting enough sleep. Randle became a father on Dec. 23 when his fiancée gave birth to their first child.
“‘Not getting too much sleep, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,’ Randle said. ‘It’s been amazing. The most exciting part of my day is coming home from practice or coming home from a game and he’s up and you’re holding him, he’s looking into your eyes.’”
In any profession, making the leap from good to great takes a great deal of sacrifice, commitment, and work ethic. The Lakers knew that building through the draft would be a risky move. They also knew that there would be growing pains along the way. But if the Warriors can build a successful team through the draft, then the Lakers can accomplish the same feat. The growing pains make it particularly difficult for the Lakers core to win early, but it may be the pains they need to win down the road.
Also, Randle and Russell are still young; Randle is 22 and Russell is 20. Still plenty of time for the two players to develop and grow to become stars in the NBA. But it’s great the two players have learned how to become a pro now, instead of both becoming talent that never could reach their potential.
[Featured Image by Michael Reaves/Getty Images]