Hidden under the stands at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Los Angeles Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell shares a laugh with an elderly security guard. About 10 feet away from him, his summer league head coach, Mark Madsen, fields questions about the second overall pick’s performance. Russell’s summer league campaign has just concluded with an 84-78 loss to the Utah Jazz—but his best individual showing since arriving in Vegas.

Russell’s laugh disappears when it is his turn to face the media. Asked to give a self-assessment of his week, he doesn’t soften his words for the camera.

“Not good,” Russell says. “For me, not good. I know what I'm capable of and I know the work we put in before we came here as a team, and I don't feel like we played to our full potential.”

With a Las Vegas Summer League record 12,422 fans on hand to watch, most of them in Lakers purple and gold and clashing with the red seats of the arena, Russell looked like the 19-year-old rookie he is. There were passes to get excited about that displayed his two-steps-ahead-of-everyone-else court vision, but also turnovers aplenty and a shot that was unable to find the basket for much of the week.

Russell says that the biggest challenge in jumping from college to the pros is getting used to executing at a faster pace and adjusting on the defensive end. With more one-on-one defense and every opposing guard a scoring threat, learning defensive rotations and being in the right place at the right time was even more crucial than in college. As the week went on, Russell’s comfort level went up. The biggest key for his success was sticking to his game rather than trying to switch things up.

“I’ve never been that guy to be the strongest or the fastest,” Russell says. “I try to figure out how to use my mind to its full potential and get it done. Just slowing down [was important]. The first two games started with turnovers and stuff like that. When I just slow it down and relax it’s easier.”

Coach Madsen agreed that his star rookie got better as the week went on, but was far more complimentary, stressing that summer league is a learning experience.

“D’Angelo Russell has a knack for making the people around him better,” Madsen says. “He can find a way to get passes through where there’s not much space. He can deliver the ball in the pick-and-roll. He can find shooters in transition. If I was a player in the NBA today, I would love playing with D’Angelo. He’s going to get you open shots throughout the game. Over the course of his career I think he’s going to have a lot of teammates taking him out to steak dinner because of those passes.”