LOS ANGELES -- D'Angelo Russell raced down the left side of the court, settling in 3-point range, hands ready, awaiting a pass that never came.
Kobe Bryant had the ball and the only direction it was heading after he was done with it was toward the hoop. That was his mindset throughout most of his career, and the way it was on this night, when his legs had extra lift in them. He was in rhythm like James Brown's "Funky Drummer" and his targeting system was locked in well enough to make seven of his 11 3-point tries against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He fired away. This shot wound up being one of those seven.
Russell's turn would have to come down the road. Eventually.
What Kobe did give to Russell right away was advice. Lots of it. Russell's 18 points almost matched his total of 21 in his previous three games. But the uptick was tempered by the fact he sat for the final 3½ minutes of this close victory, as coach Byron Scott went with Jordan Clarkson down the stretch instead.
"Listen, he's going through a process. He's had a really tough stretch," Bryant said. "And I've been on him pretty tough and picking him up as well. It's just picking up the intensity. Offensively he can get to spots on the floor -- he can score.
"But defensively, you start seeing now, picking up pressure full court, having a defensive presence, which I think is very important for young guys, because if you don't get it the first two, three years, it's something that you'll be struggling with. Once you get in the habit of doing it early, then it just becomes part of who you are."
Kobe is aware of the noise around Russell, whose slow development turned into the spark of some verbal fire between former NBA player turned Clippers analyst Don MacLean and Scott this week.
"You can't listen to any of that stuff," Bryant said. "He needs to just focus on him. Especially playing in a market like Los Angeles, you can't listen to any of that. You have to focus on your process, do what you're told to do and train as hard as you possibly can, before practice, after practice. You have to stick to your process.
"You can't let outside friends or voices influence anything. Because then that easily knocks you off-course. You cannot afford to do that."
There are two ways Russell can approach playing alongside Bryant this season. Either he can be jealous that Bryant gets the most shots on the team despite shooting the lowest percentage, or he can take note of how Bryant earned such privileges.
"Your game gets to a point where they cannot deny you, where your bad games are great games for other people," Bryant said. "That's stuff that you can control."
Kobe isn't just basking in the tributes throughout this final lap. He's showing appreciation for his contemporaries and offering encouragement and tips to the younger generation. Tuesday against the Timberwolves was one of the rare moments he could even outperform one of the rising stars. Bryant's 38 points were eight more than Andrew Wiggins scored and enough to hold off the Timberwolves down the stretch.
Wiggins did get the best of Kobe on one fadeaway jumper near the left block, which led to this exchange:
Kobe: "That looked familiar."
Wiggins: "I got it from you."
Later, Kobe offered a detailed critique of how Wiggins has improved his turnaround jumper.
"In the first year he came into the league, he was off-balance with it, exposing the ball too much," he said. "That one was textbook -- textbook: Hid the ball well, elevated well, faded well. I was impressed."
Wiggins got all the game minutes he could have asked for as a rookie last year, and the veterans on this year's squad -- Kevin Garnett, Tayshaun Prince and Andre Miller -- are under no pretense that they should be playing big minutes. Garnett even told coach Sam Mitchell that he should be playing less. Mitchell had Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine and Gorgui Dieng -- who have completed a total of four NBA seasons between them -- on the court for much of the fourth quarter Tuesday.
"It's easy for me because I don't have a choice," Mitchell said. "I don't have a choice but to do the right thing."
It's a trickier situation for Scott, who said before the game his goal is to "Try to get as much out of the young players as possible ... along with giving Kobe his due as well."
There might be no such thing as the perfect balance. Even a vintage Kobe performance that delivered a victory had the downside of decreasing the Lakers' chances of finishing in the top three in the draft lottery and thus keeping their pick this year.
But if Kobe can give advice while at the same time providing real-time evidence of what that approach has meant to him? That could be the best the Lakers can hope for, as long as the right people are listening.