Los Angeles Lakers point guard D'Angelo Russell was born in 1996. Three years later, Manu Ginobli was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs. Ginboli is 19 years older than Russell and has spent his entire 14-year NBA career in the small market of San Antonio, but that didn't stop the Argentina native from providing the model for the player that Russell wanted to become.
One might think that like a lot of kids who grew up in the late 90s and early 2000s, Russell would've been drawn to Kobe Bryant. Russell even spent his rookie season under the mentorship of the Black Mamba before Kobe retired. But the Spurs were also in the playoffs every year when Russell was growing up, and he gravitated toward Ginobili's crafty, left-handed game.
"Manu was never as athletic, but he could really pass the ball," Russell told ESPN. "He could score the ball, and he was just so unpredictable, and he was a lefty, so he was a player that I really prided myself on being."
Russell studies film of how Ginobili moved around the court, both with and without the ball, and how he never stopped trying to find space to operate. When Russell arrived in LA last season, the team showed him film of Ginobili because they envisioned using him in similar ways. Russell was way ahead of them.
"When he gets in the game, it's like, the whole persona of the game just changes," Russell said. "I was like, man, if I can pride myself into being like that, just being a guy that's so unpredictable that even at the age he's at now , he's so hard to guard."
— NBALakersNation (@NBALakersNation) November 16, 2016
Russell in playing a bigger role in LA than Ginobili did as a Spur in his first two seasons, averaging more points and assists per game. But Russell has emulated Ginobili's game on the court this season, especially when he recently dropped 32 points on the Brooklyn Nets. You can see him running and popping off screens to get open when he doesn't have the ball, snaking through the lane to hit floaters and stepping out behind the arc to knock down a handful of 3's.
The Ginobili-Russell comparison might be unexpected, but it isn't unwarranted.
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