This wasn’t counting down the final seconds of a Lakers championship win against the hated Boston Celtics. It wasn’t living or dying with a last-second shot by Kobe Bryant or frantically watching Magic Johnson’s baby hook float through the hot, muggy air of Boston Garden so many years ago.But after agonizing through two of the worst seasons in franchise history the past two seasons and nervously looking ahead to an uncertain future, Lakers fans had every reason to sweat out the final seconds before the Purple and Gold made its most pivotal draft pick in decades.• Photos: Lakers get their (point) man, D’Angelo Russell“We want Russell, we want Russell, we want Russell,” a throng of them shouted Thursday from Tom’s Urban restaurant across the street from Staples Center at L.A. Live. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error It was clear their preference was dynamic Ohio State guard DeAngelo Russell, a slick, athletic 6-foot-5 combination of shooting and passing ability. Rather than Duke center Jahlil Okafor, who had been connected to the Lakers ever since the Minnesota Timberwolves locked in on Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns.As far as the fans were concerned, anyway, the choice was easy.• Video: Watch as Russell is introduced as Lakers pickAnd as NBA commissioner Adam Silver approached a podium 3,000 miles away in Brooklyn, New York, he could barely get out Russell’s name before a 150 or so fans blew the roof off a restaurant just a few steps away from the arena he will soon call home. It wasn’t another championship banner rising above the rafters at Staples Center. But right now, the Lakers and their frustrated fans will settle for adding a piece of the puzzle that might just lead to the next one.• Photos: Scott, Kupchak react to drafting RussellFor the first night in years, Lakers fans had something to be happy about.“Yes, we got our guy,” shouted 31-year-old fan Omar Juarez from East L.A.A few feet away, 22-year-old Semone Fetermon breathed a sigh of relief.“That was who I wanted,” Fetermon said. “That’s the guy I’ve wanted all along.”But like all of Lakers Nation, he had to wait out an anxious process in which the Lakers’ front office debated drafting Russell and his enormous backcourt playmaking ability or going the more traditional route by selecting Duke center Jahlil Okafor.Armed with their highest pick in decades, it was almost guaranteed the Lakers would end up with a potential future All-Star. And with nearly a wide-open roster to work with, no matter who they decided on would immediately become a key contributor and one of the cornerstones on which they will build around.The question was whether they’d remain true to their history of constructing title-contending rosters around a dominant big man — this is a franchise that’s used Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol to patrol the middle on championship clubs — or follow the recent NBA trend of building around long-range shooting, dynamic playmaking guards.Since being awarded the second pick in the draft last month, it seemed more likely they would gamble that the low-post offensive wizardry of Okafor would give them their latest dominant big man. But as the weeks and days pulled them closer to making their most important decision in years, Russell kept growing and growing and growing on them. In the end, his ability to control a game as an effortless scorer and gifted passer — coupled with mounting concerns about Okafor’s defensive shortcomings — were too much too pass up.And in a league that’s becoming more reliant on dominant guard play and 3-point shooting, by the time their pick arrived Thursday, Russell was the clear choice.“You can go back and forth and clearly that’s a discussion or a debate you can have for a couple of hours,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “You look around this building and you see Chamberlain and you see Jabbar and you see Shaquille, those are three pretty good centers. “And there was a center available that we did not select. So, and then there’s also Jerry West, and Gail Goodrich and Magic Johnson. You can debate the whole topic.”Based on the reaction at Tom’s Urban, it was a decision that made their fans ecstatic.“He’s got star potential. He’s got an ‘it’ factor,” Juarez said. “This is Los Angeles. The Lakers are about star power. And DeAngelo has that kind of potential.”And by going small with Russell, perhaps the Lakers tipped their hand a bit as far as what might be waiting in free agency next month.All of a sudden, a backcourt of Russell and emerging second-year guard Jordan Clarkson must look pretty good to potential free agent bigs around the league. Throw in second-year forward Julius Randle, who has dropped 20 pounds and is reportedly wowing Lakers brass with his summer work, and the Lakers have an enticing young core to attract veteran stars.Did I mention they could have more than $20 million to spend this summer? And even more next summer when Kobe Bryant’s contract comes off the books and the salary cap takes a significant bump up when the new TV contract kicks in?Even before the draft started Thursday, there was talk the Lakers sat atop the wish list of Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, a free agent who reportedly told the Blazers he will not return.Could an Aldridge/Lakers marriage be in the making?On a night the Lakers when the Lakers went small, it was easy to dream big.