Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error “He was like, ‘Eat,’” Russell recalled. “I was like, ‘OK, I know what you mean.’ So I give credit to that.”So then, Russell ate plenty.He became the first Lakers rookie since Elgin Baylor to score at least 39 points, something Baylor also had on March 11, 1959. He became just the second rookie in NBA history to make a eight 3-pointers (a career high). He also set a record for most 3-pointers made by a Lakers rookie in franchise history, breaking Nick Van Exel’s mark. “I don’t play for those records or statistics,” Russell said. “I just play and whatever happens, happens. Tonight was just my night.”It sure was.After Lakers coach Byron Scott called for Russell to “intermix” what he called his “point-guard vision” and “scoring point-guard mentality. Russell provided a perfect mix of that with his own play. He converted on floaters. He made catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. He even converted on a post-up fadeaway that resembled Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki. Russell cut into the lane to receive a backdoor pass from Jordan Clarkson, who added 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Russell slid into the lane to finish on a reverse layup. “I was trying to still play through the offense and be aggressive at the same time, and let it still come to me and be aggressive at the same time,” Russell said. “I was trying to pick and choose my spots.”Russell chose his spots by mostly scoring when it counted. When Russell made a 3-pointer that gave the Lakers an 82-76 lead with 10:32 left in the fourth quarter, Russell high-fived a kid sitting in a courtside seat. After Russell mad is his 27-footer that secured a 103-97 cushion with 30.8 seconds left, Russell rubbed his fingers on his right arm and yelled, “I have ice in my veins.” Clarkson and Roy Hibbert (14 points) soon hugged him. “I was running out of celebrations,” Russell said. “I thought of one. That was the first thing on my mind.”That seemed like a nice problem to have. Surely, it beat the circumstances Russell encountered earlier in the season. He lost his starting spot 20 games into the season amid Scott’s frustration with the team’s slow starts and his quest to humble his rookie point guard. Russell spent plenty of fourth quarters in both close games and blowouts watching from the bench. “At times, he probably doubted himself, doubted us and doubted the system,” Scott said. “He was trying to figure it out and figure it out his way, like most young people.”Though he occasionally made indirect comments about the offense, Russell put more blame on his inexperience than Scott’s system.“Just a rookie. You can blame it on that,” Russell said. “Rookie mistake. It’s something I can learn from. Whenever you get that opportunity, it can be so small and you have to take advantage of it.”Russell has taken advantage of his circumstances lately. Though he credited Lakers assistant coaches Thomas Scott and Larry Lewis, the Lakers coach staff has recently sensed improvement in his practice habits. They initially lamented his goofiness through drills. But Russell has focused lately on his shooting, post-game and film study.After averaging 12.4 points on 42.2 percent shooting and 3.3 assists in 26 minutes per game as a reserve, Russell recently shared he feels he has played on a longer leash. But Scott argued that tug-and-pull simply coincided with Russell’s progression amid his expectation “to get me to trust you.”“I wouldn’t say I’ve loosened up. I’ve probably been even more demanding of him. But I also have given more freedom as well,” Scott said. “He’s growing and has some confidence and is becoming a little more comfortable in the system. The Lakers actually spent the past week tweaking their system. Since last Thursday, the Lakers have run an offensive set that puts more emphasis on floor spacing and ball movement. Though the Lakers ran the set in summer league, Russell and his teammates experienced initial hiccups in mastering it in one practice before Friday’s loss to Memphis. But now?“I really like it,” Russell said. “It’s cool. It’s just fast paced and it forces you to read and react.”Not all went according to plan, though.Lakers guard Lou Williams sat out the second half because of a moderately strained left hamstring. Williams will miss Wednesday’s game in Denver so the Lakers can evaluate him. But that essentially just gave more time for Russell to run the show. “Consistency is the biggest thing,” Russell said. “I would say consistency and opportunity and taking advantage of the opportunity you get in a good way. When you got a coach, you got to develop that trust with him so he knows he can rely on you.”Only four days ago, Scott lamented no one emerged as a leader during Bryant’s absence. Although Scott echoed Russell’s optimism in his leadership abilities, both contended he has to build credibility first. Well, in a game where he made nearly every shot he made en route to victory, how much progress did Russell make on that front?“Does he have those qualities? I think so,” Scott said. “But he has to earn the respect of his peers. A game like this definitely helps. But he has to continue to strive to get better.”Russell vowed to do just that. “There are guys dying to be in that position,” Russell said. “I’m here. I really don’t want to look back from this point.” Russell then left the press conference room and walked toward the loading dock. Soon enough, the Lakers would leave for Denver where Russell hopes to offer more glimpse of greatness once again. “I’ve never been up here,” Russell said, smiling. “I never knew this existed.”Plenty of signs, however, suggested that Russell’s breakout game had been developing. Bryant missed his consecutive game because of soreness in his right shoulder, though he flew with the Lakers (12-49) for Wednesday’s game against the Denver Nuggets (23-37) in what will mark his final game at Pepsi Center. Russell had already averaged 17 points on 50 percent shooting and 5.25 assists in 31.5 minutes since becoming a starter. And Russell’s dad, Antonio, unexpectedly texted him beforehand in a conversation that both revealed confusion and clairvoyance.“Are you hungry?” Russell recalled.His dad wasn’t concerned about his dietary habits. It appeared nothing could replace the cheers designated for Kobe Bryant when he sat on the bench with his teammates. But nearly two hours later, D’Angelo Russell captured the buzz by offering something Bryant once excelled at for so many times.Russell secured the Lakers a 107-101 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday at Staples Center by checking off nearly every box required for a potential star. He made clutch shots, including consecutive 3-pointers that gave the Lakers a 103-97 lead with 30.8 seconds left. Russell carried his team by posting career-highs in points (39) and becoming dangerous from the perimeter (8-of-12). And he showed infectious energy with every basket he made to snap the Lakers’ eight-game losing streak. All of which earned him a spot in the Lakers press conference room, representing the symbolic rites of passage Russell took in showing glimpses of his possible greatness.