d! Russell bellows. He did, and it hurt. But I insist it doesnt count, and Russell relents.Game on-for real this time-and I
d! Russell bellows. He did, and it hurt. But I insist it doesnt count, and Russell relents.Game on-for real this time-and Iin Gästebuch 17.07.2018 07:50
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This story appears in ESPN The Magazines November 14 Playing Through Pain Issue. Subscribe today!Jordan Clarksons brow furrows. Lets get after it, he says. You hear me? Yup, its over, DAngelo Russell replies, his eyes narrowing. Im gonna light his ass up. The it theyre getting after? Uh, thats me.Its a balmy evening at a paintball course in Bellflower, California, and the heirs of a Lakers backcourt relinquished by Kobe Bryant are armed to the teeth and feeling good. Theyve fine-tuned their craft over the past 12 months in regular games with teammates at Hollywood Sports Park, this world-class paintball facility 18 miles south of Staples Center. Its like a team-building exercise with high-velocity projectiles. And theyre about to inflict their team-building all over me.I owe all of this to former Laker Roy Hibbert, who introduced paintball outings to the team when he signed with LA in the summer of 2015. Now its Russell and Clarkson, 20 and 24, respectively, who serve as torchbearers of the teams top pastime, which they believe will play a role in building chemistry on a remodeled roster of recent draft picks and league transients, among them free agent signees Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov.It gets us talking, trying to get to the same goal of beating the other team, so it all transfers over, Clarkson says. But mostly its us bonding, something where we can get away from the basketball stuff and have fun.FUN HAS BEEN at a premium for the once-mighty Lakers, now division doormats coming off a franchise-worst 17-65 season. Further jangling their nerves last season: former head coach Byron Scotts tough-love brand of tutelage, which often led to pine time for a young core that included 2014 lottery pick Julius Randle.But its a new dawn in LA, and with it comes hope in the form of two offseason acquisitions: No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram, the gifted Duke swingman whom Kevin Durant has likened to himself, and new head coach Luke Walton. The former Lakers forward and Warriors assistant returns to LA toting a modern offense predicated on pace of play and ball movement-not to mention a reputation as something of a millennial whisperer.Coachs style of play is run-and-gun and try to make the right play, Russell says. He wants us to learn from each other, play off each other, and hes always encouraging us in practice, whether its to shoot the ball or to get a stop so we can have fun on the other end. Hearing that from your coach is the best feeling in the world.Perhaps Waltons most pressing task will be to develop floor leader Russell, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, who has shown flashes of stardom (see his eight-game run of 18.3 points and 4.8 assists per game after the All-Star break) as well as questionable maturity (see his entanglement in teammate Nick Youngs infidelity saga). Only a teenager last season, Russell appears to be a new man after strong performances in both summer league and preseason action, and his passing, penetration and shot from both outside and the midrange give the Lakers hope that they might have found their point guard of the future.Meanwhile, a new team philosophy-and a Kobe-sized hole in the game plan-has Clarkson, at least, envisioning a Warriors South in LA. Were all about playing together now, he says. Its not about one guy anymore. Its about sacrificing for the team. Adds Russell, Kobe deserved every bit of attention he got in his last year, but theres freedom in Kobe not being around. Theres also a leadership vacuum that they plan to fill as a unit. Theres no one leader, no face of the Lakers, Russell says, citing the Spurs as the template. When we traveled to San Antonio last season, I noticed that its about everybody-they had all those household names, but the 15th guy got the same amount of attention as Tim Duncan, whos a legend. I feel like were all buying into that concept. Were a team now. And thats exciting.Interestingly enough, the Spurs had a favorite pastime of their own during their title run. That pastime? Paintball.WE ARRIVE AT Cajun Terror, one of the facilitys 11 courses, a dystopian hellscape of graves and Creole cottages. The contest: a free-for-all elimination game. The wager: First man out takes two shots to the backside with water-soluble missiles that travel at the alarming rate of 175 mph.Anything else I should know? Usually, you say All right, Im out once you get hit, Russell says. That doesnt exist. Come again? We dont play no outs, Clarkson explains. So youll have to run out the park.Before I can file for a rule change, the players scatter. Wait, dont shoot! I yelp. Too late. Russell, in full backpedal, drills me. I hit you in the head! Russell bellows. He did, and it hurt. But I insist it doesnt count, and Russell relents.Game on-for real this time-and I waddle through the course like a short, fat, terrified duck, scanning the field for my opponents as yellow paint drips from my aching head. I was expecting a high-volume offensive. What Im facing instead is a disciplined game plan that is maddening to counter. Whats worse, I can hear their chatter.D-Lo, Im trailing! D-Lo! Finish him! Russell barks back, in a tip of the cap to either Mortal Kombats fatalities or Cobra Kais John Kreese. In either case? Super unnerving.Spotting Clarkson 20 yards away standing in plain sight, I gather my breath and aim over a headstone. Pop-pop. I miss, but Im feeling good enough to send a message: Youre nothin! I speak too soon. Thwap-thwap-thwap ...Pellets to the posterior! The scene was a setup, an ambush, Clarkson revealing himself only to draw me out as his fleet-footed friend sneaked around behind. Thwap-thwap-thwap ... and still they come like a hailstorm of thumbtacks across my back and neck.Im out, Im out! I shout repeatedly, though its possible that Russell cant hear me over his laughter. Plan B: scream like a baby and literally beg for a cease-fire. No more, no more!Reminder: The Lakers dont do cease-fires.New plan: run like hell. And so I do, dropping my gun and fleeing toward shelter. Clarkson shouts from ahead: Run him out this way! Engulfed in hellfire, I reverse course, sprinting through an exit door toward the parking lot. 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