Lakers' D'Angelo Russell, Suns' Devin Booker Motivate Each Other

By Medina, Mark | Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), December 8, 2016 | Go to article overview

Lakers' D'Angelo Russell, Suns' Devin Booker Motivate Each Other


Medina, Mark, Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)


LOS ANGELES » Just as he started to fall asleep, any hopes D'Angelo Russell had of pleasant dreams quickly evaporated. Russell's close friend woke him up late at night with an urgent message.

"Bro, you see this stuff?" Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker asked Russell.

Russell then learned a video he recorded on his phone leaked on social media. The video showed teammate Nick Young admitting to infidelities.

"I know the truth," Russell recalled thinking about the incident nearly nine months ago. "I can't do anything about it."

Russell still did some things. He apologized to Young and his teammates, and the pair has since reconciled. Russell publicly expressed remorse. And in a self-deprecating Foot Locker commercial he later filmed with several young NBA stars including Booker, Philadelphia's Ben Simmons and Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns, Russell threw Simmons' phone into the ocean as his "advice" to the incoming NBA rookie.

"It's good if you're able to laugh at your mistakes," Booker said. "A lot went on last year, but he still fought through it and is still grinding."

Booker helped Russell nearly every step of the way, from the moment he informed his friend the video prank had gone viral and become tabloid fodder. Beyond the commercial shoot, the two vacationed together with mutual friends and family in Mexico during the offseason and comforted each other through the highs and lows of their rookie seasons.

Russell is scheduled to sit out when the Lakers (10-14) play host to the Suns (6-16) on Friday at Staples Center, still nursing a sore knee that has sidelined him for 11 of the last 12 games.

"He was positive," Russell said of Booker. "He was there. He had my back through it all."

Their friendship traces back to when they first met at the Nike Elite 100 Camp in 2011, an event that featured some of the top high school prospects in the country. The two formed what Booker called a "competitive friendship."

"We have the same mindset when it comes to the floor. It's important to have friends to be on the same mission as you are," Booker said. "We always have something to prove."

When they played together at the Nike Elite 100 camp, Russell and Booker sought to dominate every game. When they played against each other, they were intent on matching up to see how their skills and familiarity played out.

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Russell and Booker ascended the mock draft boards during their freshman seasons at Ohio State and Kentucky, respectively. The Lakers selected Russell at No. 2 overall in the 2015 draft and the Suns drafted Booker with the 13th pick, and the relationship remains strong. They routinely share observations on opponents.

When the Lakers and Suns meet, the pair concede engaging in friendly trash talk. According to Basketball Reference, Booker has bragging rights over Russell in points (20.2, 10.8), shooting (43 percent, 28 percent), assists (4. …

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