The Los Angeles Lakers passed on Emmanuel Mudiay in favor of D'Angelo Russell with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, and Mudiay made it clear Tuesday that he hasn't forgotten about the slight.
Prior to the Denver Nuggets' 120-109 victory over the Lakers, the No. 7 overall selection talked about the importance of proving the Lakers brass wrong, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
"They passed up on me; that's definitely a motivation," Mudiay said. "They took another point guard ahead of me. I'm a point guard. So I guess they saw something in [Russell] that they didn't see in me."
It will likely be some time before it becomes clear whether the Lakers made the right decision, but Mudiay turned in a better statistical performance than his fellow rookie point guard Tuesday.
Both struggled from the field, as they each made only three shots, but Mudiay registered his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 assists. The Guangdong Southern Tigers product dropped plenty of pretty dimes on the night, including this one captured by the NBA's official Twitter account:
Mudiay also knocked down three of his four attempts from long range, although he did turn the ball over six times.
Russell played just 20 minutes to Mudiay's 31 and ended up with seven points, six assists and one turnover, but most importantly, Mudiay's team came out on top.
Lakers head coach Byron Scott, who was a key part of Russell's selection, provided an honest assessment of Mudiay when asked about him prior to the contest, per Medina.
"I didn't think he was a true point guard," Scott said. "I didn't think he was a guy who made great decisions when we saw him and had him here. I thought that was something he would have to learn to do to run that position."
Following Mudiay's showing against the Lakers, the point guard echoed Scott's comments, saying, "Thank you Byron Scott for saying I'm not a point guard," per Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post.
Mudiay has seemingly adapted more quickly to the NBA game than Russell has. Mudiay is averaging 12.5 points and 6.5 assists per game, whereas Russell is putting up only 8.5 points and 2.8 assists per contest. At the same time, Mudiay isn't without growing pains, as evidenced by his field-goal percentage of 30.9 percent and 6.3 turnovers per game.
It is far too early to tell which player will be the better NBA point guard. The rising Nuggets star has a chance to make the Lakers and their fans miserable for many years to come.
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