SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- He has been a starter and a reserve. He has played in some fourth quarters and watched several from the bench. Just about the only constant for D'Angelo Russell during a roller-coaster rookie season is the criticism from his head coach, which has steadily flowed far more often than any praise.
But since Russell was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Los Angeles Lakers fans and the team's front office have been hungry for signs of promise from the guard the Lakers have often said carries "superstar" potential.
In short bursts, Russell has shown he can be special, but on Thursday, his talents were finally on full display. He scored a career-high 27 points off the bench in a 118-115 loss to the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena, including scoring 19 in the second half to help lead a rally from a 27-point deficit.
Was this Russell's best game of the season? Of course, but his answer to that very question carried the kind of confidence necessary to own the spotlight for the Lakers, which is exactly where Russell hopes to be when Kobe Bryant departs.
"Y'all ain't seen nothing yet," Russell said of his performance. "That's all I'm going to say. ... The world hasn't seen anything yet."
What, exactly, does he envision?
"I know what I can do," he said. "Y'all just got to see."
Even coach Byron Scott was impressed, though Scott didn't exactly offer a ton of admiration.
"I thought he played great," Scott said.
Russell left the game in the final minutes after rolling his right ankle, spoiling a marvelous performance he believed should have included a comeback win.
"They got lucky," he said, referencing the Kings.
No doubt, Russell was rolling late, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter to help lead the Lakers' charge before suffering his injury. He also steered an offense that included Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, two promising young players who, like Russell, are considered cornerstones of the Lakers' future.
Their spirited efforts -- Clarkson scored 15 and Randle had six points and 10 rebounds off the bench -- give Lakers fans hope for next season and also send a league-wide message that the trio could be quite formidable very soon.
"I feel like we're turning the corner a little bit," Russell said.
Said Scott: "That whole group, that's why I left them in. Their aggressiveness and their physicality in the fourth quarter was fantastic and their activity was fantastic. And then offensively, they were being aggressive as well."
Considering those young players brought the Lakers back, it was certainly justified that Scott stuck with them rather than rely on his veterans, which he has often done this season. Even Bryant, who watched from the sideline during the fourth quarter, was happy being a spectator rather than trying to save the day.
"I'd much rather watch the young guys play," Bryant said. "They played so well and worked really, really hard. It's important for them to figure out how to close those games out without me on the floor. Obviously, I'm not going to be there next year, so it's important for them to learn how to do those things."
And as for himself, Russell says his confidence continues to grow, as his postgame remarks certainly indicate, but he's working more to gain his teammates' trust.
"I feel great. I know the work I'm putting in," Russell said. "I just really want to build the confidence of my teammates to look at me, and if I make a play call or if I call something, [they trust me].
"Me being young, I'm going to definitely mess up a lot more than I'm going to make the right play, but I want my teammates to be able to trust me and look at me as a veteran guard trying to run the team."
Russell has been coming off the bench after starting the team's first 20 games, and though his minutes have fluctuated, he said coming off the bench has its perks.
"It's easy when you're on the sideline and you can see what you're not doing well, and then you get in there and you try to focus on what we weren't doing," Russell said. "That's what I tried to do [against the Kings]."
Thursday's game could seem like a reminder for Russell of what he could become in this league, a performance to look back on when he struggles or doesn't play much, for whatever reason. However, he spoke as if he's the last person on earth who was surprised or even impressed by the way he played against the Kings.
"I just know what I'm capable of," he said. "When I don't do it, you can always throw the excuse -- you're young, it's a process, this and that -- but I know what I can do. Just staying patient and just keep putting in hard work and keep God first and the sky is the limit."