On D’Angelo Russell’s Game Winner

Darius Soriano —  April 10, 2017

The day I can’t be excited about the Lakers winning a game on a buzzer beater is the day I no longer want to be fan.

There’s been a lot of debate about the Lakers winning games lately. D’Angelo Russell’s shot in the clip above gave the Lakers their 4th straight win in this final stretch of the season. That’s not just the team’s longest win streak this year, it’s their longest winning streak in 4 years. Think about that. This team has been so bad they haven’t been able to win this many games in a row since the season Kobe tore his achilles. Now they’re winning and I’m supposed to…be mad? Nah.

I don’t want to get into the lottery odds. I’ve covered that ad nauseam since the team started winning games a week ago. I also think discussing those things are, for lack of a better word, stupid. Everyone single fan of the team wants the Lakers to keep their pick. Every. Single. One. So, what fans are actually arguing about is having an 8.9% better statistical chance of that happening. Do those percentage points matter? Of course they do. But if they got those percentage points back on their side of the ledger would it somehow guarantee the team kept their pick? Of course not.

It’s a lottery. And the odds are what they are. If team keeps their pick, I’ll rejoice. If they lose it, I’ll get bummed.

But, guess what, whichever way it goes is not going to affect how I feel about the team or how I root for them. I’ll love them either way. Further, if they do lose the pick, I’ll accept it for what it actually is: the penance paid for past trades made. These picks are owed. The Lakers traded them. Losing this pick, in a year the team has been bad, would hurt severely. And I’ll feel that pain. After that, though, I’ll just go back to being a fan who runs this site and provides the best analysis I can. Because as someone whose lived a certain amount of life and had truly important things not go my way, I’ve realized the world doesn’t stop spinning because I did not get what I wanted.

Which leads me back to Russell. After his teammates surrounded him to congratulate him on his game winning shot, he sprinted to the stands to embrace his family. At first, it looked quite similar to what he did after hitting a buzzer beater in Las Vegas during summer league last July. And some might have taken that the wrong way.

It was only in his post-game interview, though, that we learned it was more than him wanting to rejoice with his brothers who were sitting in the stands. We learned that Russell had lost his Grandmother on Sunday morning. That he contemplated flying back to Louisville to be with family, not going to work to play a basketball game. We learned the heaviness he was carrying.

And we empathized. Which is human and I understand that too. As someone who lost my father not even 8 months ago, I can guess at how Russell is feeling. And I know, too, that a good day at work or you doing something which makes other people happy doesn’t necessarily change whatever you feel. That’s how this goes. And I accept that because sometimes you don’t have choices.

The day I can’t be excited about the Lakers winning a game on a buzzer beater is the day I no longer want to be fan. Sometimes life has a way of giving you perspective. You realize that some things matter and some things really matter. I won’t dare tell you which is what for you. But I know what it is for me. And I’m going to enjoy the hell out of that shot and these kids playing well more than I will those 8.9% odds.


Darius Soriano

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31 responses to On D’Angelo Russell’s Game Winner

  1. Well said!

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  2. David Peterson April 10, 2017 at 9:11 am

    You’ve got to compartmentalize this stuff. Each game is important for this year’s Lakers and the guys that will remain going forward. The lottery is a separate matter for the franchise. Would I like to have the the extra 9% in the lottery? Yes. Am I stoked to see these guys put together this run to end the season? Absolutely. It’s possible to hold both positions. Go Lakers!

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  3. Nice read Darius.
    I didn’t realize that a 4 game win streak was our longest in 4 years – That’s amazing, and worth a celebration, but also thought provoking and worthy of discussion.

    With regards to the draft; a few games ago, I accepted that we will most likely be locked into 3rd, damage was done. So from that point on, there was no conflict for me, and I was free return to the natural state of rooting for our team to scratch for every bit of pride they could muster.

    However, if the Suns, who already have more talent imo, than we do, and who at one point, were one of our western rivals,.. and who also torpedoed us with Nash, aka Cash, aka My aching Back, gotta go golf,.. who’s deal was, by the way the reason this pick is up for grabs,. and D’Antoni, who imo never wanted us to succeed,.. If they,. the Suns snatch a pick which we rightly deserve and desperately need,..then it will burn deeply.

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    • The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers (Hinkey) a couple of years ago. The already got everything they were going to get out of the deal. Now the 76ers get either this year’s pick or next year’s.

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    • Do they REALLY have more talent? Or is this just more narrative bias/perception? With the exception of Clarkson being 24, all of the Lakers young guys are younger and more promising.

      As I always point out, DAR has better numbers across the board than Devin Booker. Whether you’re looking at PER, ORPM, DRPM, Win Shares, Assists (in less minutes), Rebounds, or PPG on a per36 minute basis. His FG% and 3p% are equal yet Booker is considered a sharpshooter (lol?). More like Volume Shooter. Looking at context (PG position, learning his own game and his teamates, minutes distribution, Luke focusing team instead of all-in from Day 1 etc), I’d say DAR has been more impressive.

      Zubac is 19 and more promising than Len. Randle is 22 and more promising than Chriss. Ingram is 19 and more promising than Warren (Ingram has actually played really well post all-star break and is the most promising of all of them once he adds some strength.

      Funny thing is that also DAR’s numbers are better than Wiggins last year when he was 21 also.

      Just sayin….it’s fine if people like other teams’ young guys, but context matters. You can’t compare the promise of one guy vs. the shortcomings of the other. Seems like that’s what people do when talking about the Lakers.

      I constantly hear complaints about inconsistency, yet people gloss over the fact that EVERY YOUNG GUY is inconsistent. You can’t ignore all the 7/24 games that Booker has put up with 1 or 2 assists (and Wiggins too), yet blast DAR when he puts up a clunker.

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      • You don’t need to preach to me about D’Angelo,.. I’ve done all that myself for two seasons. I’ve finally however just accepted that imo he’s not a superstar, not the ONE, which we can build around, but possibly an all star, {which is good indeed}

        As for which has the better team, that’s my personal opinion, and I’m sticking to it,.. so there ;-}

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    • D’Antoni refusing to cooperate with the team in their previous tanking campaign during his final season as Lakers coach is one reason I’m perplexed as to why the Lakers opted to gift him with Lou Williams—that along with my dislike of how he played Kobe Bryant. Sorry, but I remain convinced and committed to the opinion that D’Antoni and Nash were Trojan horses, sent in to infiltrate and destroy the Lakers and Kobe. Hahaha, not really! But, yes really!
      BTW, Earl Watson crafted a genius marketing ploy to garner Devin Booker those 70 points. The previously in obscure Devin Booker “You’re going to know my name by the end of the night” earned national recognition with his scoring outburst in March 2017 against the Celtics. Thereby providing the Suns with momentary league awareness after yet another bleak season.

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  4. TempleOfJamesWorthy April 10, 2017 at 9:54 am

    The whole point of being a sports fan is narrative. Stories like “Is this the year Team X finally gets over the hump?” or “Can the hotshot rookie turn the fortunes of Team Y around?” are, in the end, why we’re fans. Otherwise, why would we give a hoot about a bunch of millionaires running around a court/field/pitch/whatever playing a ball game?

    DAR and Lakers fans were granted a memorable narrative in this game, and we should treasure that.

    Even if the Lakers’ victory in some way altered their draft lottery odds, ***we have no way of knowing*** what would have happened had DAR’s shot missed. The ping pong balls will bounce how they bounce.

    My condolences to the Russell family for the loss of their beloved relative, and congratulations to DAR for making a game-winning shot in her memory.

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  5. This 4 game win streak matters in several ways.
    – The Lakers get to look at the youngsters on this team in an evolving winning situation, running a modern NBA offense.
    – Other teams get to see these same youngsters in a winning environment, running a modern NBA offense.
    – The players themselves now better understand what the coaches are preaching about teamwork and defense and can focus on these things during the summer.
    – Everything about the team looks better, and that can do nothing but help the evaluations and options (trade and otherwise) that we have going forward.

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    • It may give the players some confidence, etc. and that is good, but there is little reason to think that it has significance beyond that. As I have pointed out several times, it is not winning close games that separates good teams from bad ones–it is winning big. Golden State is 3-4 in games decided by three points or less; Phoenix is 9-5. The Lakers are 2-4. In games decided by 10 or more, the Golden State is 47-6. Phoenix is 7-31, and the Lakers are 13-30. Data points like these go back a long way in the NBA

      So, the Lakers beat MIN By 1, Sac by 4, MEM without Gasol by 5, and (mostly) the SA bench by 7. Two lottery teams, a borderline playoff team, and a team that has been locked into the second seed for awhile, and has been coasting to the extent that Popovich just called them out and announced that he will play all his guys the last two games. No doubt this little streak means something to the players, and that has value, and obviously that 3 finding net means something to Russell.

      But the key development down the stretch has not been the Anti-tank popgun win streak. It has been specific improvement by Ingram, and to a lesser extent, the team taking a look at Nwaba (and signing him) and Ennis. And I very seriously doubt that winning four close games in the seasonal equivalent of Garbage Time will have any effect on any Laker player’s trade value.

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      • “… The seasonal equivalent of garbage time …” Ouch – too true. And yes, there is a high correlation between overall point differential and post season success. Conversely, the final results of close games are, by their very nature, potentially very influenced by essentially random events such as a bounce of the ball.
        RR’s examples of tight game records are quite telling.

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      • I was going to post something along the same train of thought. Then I realized I had little new to add. You capture ‘snarky’ in a very understated manner. Kudos.

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    • Only time will tell, of course, if this mini-winning streak has any long term significance. But those who have actually played a sport at a high level know full well that learning how to win is different than learning how to play a sport.

      In high school, it’s easy to crush the opposition. But at the college level — and beyond — you rapidly find out that everyone is good. Everyone was a state champion in high school at his or her sport. When you get to college and you realize that everyone is as proficient at his sport as you, it’s something of a shock to the system.

      The difference, I believe, between the true champions at the higher levels and the also-rans is the following: 1) the true champions, for some reason, truly believe in themselves. They are virtually convinced that they will win 95% of the time or more. There have been dissertations written on the subject of believing in one’s self and how that inner faith can affect the end result.

      2) The other difference is that the higher-level champions know how to win even when they’re not at their best. In tennis, Bjorn Borg was a master at this. His performance in the early rounds at Wimbeldon was often quite ordinary. But in the later rounds he was almost unbeatable. Learning to win, even when he was not playing his best tennis, is one of the reasons why Borg won 5 (5!) consecutive Wimbeldon championships.

      The psychology of sports is a fascinating subject. Matters such as confidence, faith in one’s self, and simply learning how to win and not beat yourself are huge contributors to developing winning habits.

      So, I hope that this recent win streak might contribute to the young Lakers’ sense of self belief. I believe that the team is not devoid of talent. But it is lacking in maturity and a sense of what it takes simply to win a game when you’re not at your very best.

      If the Lakers internalize such matters, then that could make a big difference. And who knows? A 4-game winning streak might actually help them begin the process of believing in themselves just a bit.

      We shall see. Only time will tell.

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  6. Russell got a lucky bounce and the Lakers team full of “NO FUTURE ALLSTARS” beat the mighty duo of Towns and Wiggins. One lucky bounce deserves another. Let’s hope the NEXT lucky bounce comes from a PING PONG BALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    GO LAKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ps: I really think that Minnesota with Towns and Wiggins plus all their other assets from
    13 straight lottery appearances SHOULD be a much better team than the Lakers
    than they actually are.

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    • I almost forgot that the Timberwolves have been in the lottery since 2005.

      They’ve become the Clippers of the mid-2000s to the present.

      And what have they got to show for it?

      The two Kevins – gone to other teams to help them win titles. (Towns and Wiggins could follow them.)

      That’s why I’d rather celebrate victories, even in a lost season, than improved lottery chances.

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      • Yea, exactly. People can talk about all the hope regarding Minnesota, Milwaukee, Philly etc. Man, those teams have been garbage for 10-20 years. That’s all they talk about, hope this and future that.

        The scary thing about Philly is that they might have a Greg Oden or Bynum situation on their hand. Their hope and cornerstone has played like 35 games in 3 years yet we can’t stop hearing about how bright their future is. Simmons might end up a Brandon Roy or souped up Rubio. We haven’t even seen him so we can all calm down for now.

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  7. I’m very happy for D’Angelo Russell hitting the game-winning shot and for the Lakers winning their 4th straight game. Such things (especially for a young team learning how to win) are not irrelevant.

    On a more somber note, my sincerest condolences to D’Angelo and his family for their recent loss.

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  8. Pro-tip to the people whose comments have been deleted, don’t start out insulting people in the first sentence and maybe, just maybe, your comment will get through.

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    • Sorry about your loss Darius and DAR’s takes a lot to pick yourself up and go to work right. away in any walk of life, my respect to him for that. That’s real life, not this game that we sometimes get too worked up like me. Like i said before, we been EXTREMELY lucky with that pick giving us all these kids. None of them have turned out to be a bust. They’re not perfect but they’re still growing and at the very least they have proven to belong in the league for years to come. That’s what you hope for in the Draft. It’s complete nonsense to be waiting for some transcendent player to come out of the Draft and be a superstar right away. It’s possible but highly unlikely. Even if we lose the pick at least we have a foundation in place. Losing that pick any of the last previous three years? Now THAT would’ve been devastating. And let’s be real all this “the deepest draft in years” talk is hollow. Its just hype. Of all the players drafted since 2014 just a handful has become serviceable/good NBA players, the rest are eating the pine hard or out of the league already. We happen to have quite a few of those serviceable to good players and most of them aren’t even close to their ceiling. Let me let you all in a little secret, you know whos the player i hated the most as a rookie ever? Kobe Bean Bryant!!!

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    • TempleOfJamesWorthy April 11, 2017 at 6:52 am

      Alas, many (most?) Internet comment forums have devolved to the point where “Hey blankety-blank, you and your opinion are stupid!” is a common refrain.

      FB&G is one of the few places I still make comments because the standards of decorum are higher (Thanks Darius!).

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  9. You know what I like most about the clips,
    it was when Jordan Clarkson was just asking for the ball after the rebound but not getting it (and in fairness to him he was open). Then when Russel hit the shot, he gave a very big victory punch.

    Sheer joy of winning

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  10. It has been fun to watch the chemistry between Randle and Russell as the season progressed. On this play, Russell moved from out of bounds to find a hole in the defense left by Wiggins as he chose to guard the hardwood after the Randle rebound. Was there any doubt that Randle would look for and find Russell? Russell was not really in good form when he caught the ball, gathered himself and shot. He must have strong wrists to make his release look so easy anyway. Randle’s newly acquired taste for 3 pointers resulted in 3 Wolves descending on him opening the floor for Russell and Clarkson. It is a shame that it took most of the season to put them all on the floor together at the same time since they put a lot of pressure on the defense when they are engaged.

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  11. Everybody cheering on this sensesless wins have fun giving the 4th pick on the 2017 draft to the 76ers! At least people are saying that the 2018 draft is stacked, right? (we will be a bottom 5 team next year, no doubt about it).

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    • We may have a really good idea of the odds, but – to my knowledge – the NBA hasn’t yet dropped the ping-pong balls.

      Of course there is the chance there is already a thumb on the scales, but who do you think that thumb would favor – the 76ers and their glorious history or the Lakers??? Just thinkin’…who’s owed???…whatever…

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    • Relax Marco,…for weeks now, we couldn’t fall below 3rd.
      So have a beer and enjoy the wins.

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  12. To those of you complaining to me via comments that have been moderated that I am impacting your rights to freedom of speech, I don’t think you understand how this works. There are commenting guidelines for this site. You can read them right here: http://www.forumblueandgold.com/commenting-guidelines/ You can be respectful and follow these, or you can’t. If it’s the latter, your comments will be moderated. I’ve had few problems with people being able to do this, but if you’re one of them, that’s your problem. If you try to make it my problem, you’ll lose. That’s how this works.

    Lastly, I don’t care what your politics are or how much of an idiot you think I or other commenters are. What I do care about is if you try to bring your politics here or if you decide you’re going to call people idiots. It impacts the quality of the discussion on the board and that matters to me. And, since this is my site, I will do something about it. Again, you can choose to respect that or not, but understand who’s problem it is when you don’t.

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    • darius: write on and it’s like deja vu for you. seems aaron and/or arron-like commenters are revealing themselves again.
      You just be you and your devoted majority following with clear conscience will continue to hedge your guidelines whenever possible….ha !
      Seems 25 wins this season was right on target. thinking it was Robert who predicted and jinxed us at the same time?
      Go lakers

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    • People need to chill… Darius (and Kurt before him) have been nothing if not consistent in how this site works. And aside from one pinhead who got himself banned after repeated warnings to stop derailing the dialogue with incessantly asinine comments, I have never seen moderation used as a tool against any one individual or their rights to comment.

      Most here have the ability to respectfully share an opinion, and whether others agree or disagree, those comments are shared. Anyone suggesting otherwise clearly hasn’t spent much time in the neighborhood.

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  13. Some hold a common fallacy about what freedom of speech entails.

    There’s no protected right to come to FB&G and say whatever …

    A similar example of the limitations on free speech would be going on social media and trashing one’s employer … don’t expect a great outcome from that either.

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  14. Dig it Darius… love the sentiments. I hardly, if ever, comment, but just wanted to thank you for the site and the great reads. Looking forward to the summer and next year – LAKERS!

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