After all, the team already had a promising young combo guard in Jordan Clarkson, an All-Rookie First Team selection, so why would they add another one, thus crowding their backcourt?
"He already assumed we had a ballhandling guard,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said last week. “Our position with him was, ‘The reason we’re bringing you in a second time is we feel like you can play together.’ He was taken aback. He said, ‘Really?’ We said, ‘Really. That’s why we’re bringing you in a second time. We feel you guys can play together.'"
Still, there was concern. And when the Lakers drafted Russell No. 2 overall, many wondered if he and Clarkson could co-exist.
It remains one of the most intriguing storylines facing the Lakers this season, but, so far, there doesn’t appear to be much tension between those two.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
“They seem to get along pretty well,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said after Friday’s practice at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Stan Sherriff center here.
“For both those guys, they want each other to do extremely well, and their chemistry is undeniable when you see them on the court and off the court.”
Part of the reason the two players seem to mesh well is that they believe their skill sets complement each other more than they overlap.
“His mentality is more [to] score,” Russell said. “I’m looking to pass, and he’s in a position to score most of the time.”
Said Clarkson: “We’re two totally different players. He’s an excellent passer and I’m real aggressive and it just kind of comes together.”
The players also come together outside of basketball.
“We hang [out] a lot off the court,” Clarkson said, “so it kind of makes it easy on the court.”
“We just relate to each other,” Russell said. “He’s not one of those real serious vets that you can’t crack a smile around. He’s a young dude, second year, still learning, still growing. Me, the same way. I’m a goofy guy, he’s a goofy guy. So we kind of complement each other.”
They played alongside each other at times during summer league, and there seems to be a legitimate chance both are in the starting lineup together with Kobe Bryant playing the small forward position.
Scott said he has faith both Clarkson and Russell can play either guard position.
“That’s what these guys can both do,” Scott said. “There’s going to be times when Jordan is going to initiate the offense. There’s going to be a bunch of times when D’Angelo is going to initiate the offense. I don’t think neither one of those guys are worried about that phase of it. They’re more worried about wins than anything.”
Notes: Metta World Peace has missed the past two days of practice with a calf injury. “Obviously, it’s not the way we planned it,” Scott said. ... Russell practiced for about 15 minutes before the bone bruise in his right foot started bothering him. He sat out the rest of practice.