CLEVELAND — The bullet pass went straight toward the most sensitive spot in D’Angelo Russell’s body. It left the Lakers’ rookie point guard falling over and balled up in pain.
Russell lay motionless on the floor after Cleveland forward LeBron James accidentally humbled him in the most embarrassing way imaginable in the third quarter of the Lakers’ 120-111 loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena. Russell eventually stood up. He then winced some more. Russell then played the rest of the game.
“I’m all right,” Russell said nearly an hour later. “It was unexpected. I know if I expected it, it would’ve hurt more than it did. It was tough. Every guy knows the feeling.”
But Russell also offered a different feeling. He admitted he had watched the replay and laughed over the sequence. So much that Russell smiled when he compared the incident toward what a referee experienced in the movie, “The Longest Yard.”
“Laugh about it now,” Russell said. “Then two months from now, somebody else will have something to laugh about.”
Few laughed about the incident as soon as it happened. The sell-out crowd gasped. When the arena scoreboard replayed the incident, more gasps and groans permeated throughout the building.
“The way the crowd sounded, it was pretty obvious [LeBron] hit him right in the spot,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “I felt for [D’Angelo].”
But Bryant felt differently. From the sideline, Bryant chuckled endlessly. Nearly 90 minutes later, Bryant burst out laughing when a reporter brought up the play that the Lakers’ star described as “hilarious” and “so funny.”
“Once I knew he was okay, the jokes write themselves,” Bryant said. “That was a good time.”
So much that Bryant playfully patted on Russell on the head once he stood up. Bryant also teased Russell, though he reported foggy memory on what Bryant said considering the excruciating pain he felt at the time. Bryant remembered what he said and chuckled more about it only to decline reporting the exchange.
“You don’t want to know,” Bryant said, smiling.
One of Russell’s other teammates sounded more sympathetic. Lakers second-year guard Jordan Clarkson also could not stopping the replay over something he described as “crazy.” But Clarkson did so more out of concern that Russell would not suffer the same fate as a certain San Antonio Spurs player that recently needed testicular surgery after New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson accidentally collided into his groin area.
“I just hope he didn’t get it like Manu Ginobili,” Clarkson said of Russell. “He’s got to get ready for All-Star.”
Russell plans to play in the NBA’s rookie-sophomore game on Friday in Toronto as part of NBA All-Star weekend. During that time, it appears likely Russell will field more concerns and jokes about his recent pain.
“I don’t care,” Russell said matter-of-factly on the attention the play received.
After all, Russell had experienced a moment much worse.