Notorious B.I.G.’s “Get Money” played in the Lakers’ locker room during a mild celebration as D’Angelo Russell finished getting dressed in the corner.
The Lakers point guard, as level-headed and poker-faced as the team has been on the court, had been animated throughout the Lakers’ 123-109 in-season tournament final win, barking at one particular Pacers player — Bruce Brown.
Russell put two fingers in the air toward Brown after the wing picked up two quick fouls guarding him. And when Russell scored in the first quarter, he repeatedly barked at the bench — showing uncharacteristic emotion.
“He was talking s— all year. Yeah. Talking s— all year. For me, it was just showing it with my play. I don’t have nothing to say to him. I’m a fan of him to be honest,” Russell told The Times. “This was just all on the court. Got something to say? Show me on the court. [Nikola] Jokic ain’t there next to you today. It’s different.”
After Game 1 of last season’s Western Conference finals, Brown, then with Denver, said the Nuggets attacked Russell on the defensive end with the goal of playing him off the court.
“He’s not the best defender,” Brown told reporters last spring, “but he definitely tries.”
After the Lakers clinched the inaugural NBA Cup, Russell said he didn’t think the Lakers’ undefeated run was the kind of thing that fully affirms the team’s championship goals, despite the Lakers winning their seven tournament games by a combined 132 points.
“The losing throughout the year to good teams is what gets you ready,” Russell said. “If you beat teams that aren’t really giving you adversity throughout the game, you don’t really get better. You just beat up on them. [The Philadelphia 76ers game], overtime games, down 20, we need adversity. We’re a good team so we need adversity throughout our time.”
Still, the Lakers and Russell know the recipe.
“I think the biggest thing in the league right now that’s winning games is continuity to your offense and the versatility on defense,” he said. “I think we’re versatile, but we’re still working on our offense. That’s going to be the big thing for us.”