Russell: The NBA is ‘lucky’ he sprained his ankle, talks about having fun

Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell seems like a changed man compared to his first stint with the team during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.

Back then, he was seen as immature and possibly even a bad influence, especially after his social media incident with then-teammate Nick Young.

But he is back in the Purple and Gold, and he has shown some good leadership, not to mention some very strong all-around play.

He has done a nice job of setting the table for his teammates and scoring efficiently at all three levels, and while he, like Russell Westbrook, is very adept at creating fast-break opportunities, he does so in a reliable and measured way, unlike Westbrook.

He made his return on Friday after missing six games with a sprained ankle, and his 28 points sparked the Lakers to a 122-112 win over a tough Toronto Raptors team.

Russell scored 16 points in a monster fourth quarter for L.A., and he fed off the Arena crowd while doing so. Afterward, he talked about bringing some joy to the organization.

That joy has seemingly been sucked out by the Westbrook experience, but it is back now.

Russell also said the rest of the league was “lucky” that he had to miss those six games, as he has been looking forward to his second go-around with L.A.

“They lucky I sprained my ankle, simple as that. I was ready to go crazy, ready to have fun with this and embrace the challenge and opportunities, all the pressure. Whatever you wanna call it I was ready to embrace that. Unfortunately I went out with the ankle thing, but like I said everybody stepped up and everybody held it down. AD (Anthony Davis) been holding it down for us, tonight we tried to hold it down for him so returning the favor as a team is what it’s about.”

He even told Spectrum SportsNet’s Mike Trudell that the “sky is the limit” for this new-look Lakers squad, especially if they get a training camp under their belt this fall.

There is a new energy and vibe about this team, and if LeBron James returns from his right ankle tendon injury soon enough, one or two unlucky contenders in the Western Conference could suffer an early playoff exit at the hands of Russell and company.

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Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire