At the beginning of next week, the Los Angeles Lakers will depart for their first training camp at UC Santa Barbara. While the Lakers have brought back familiar faces, the entire outlook and philosophy has changed.
Head coach Luke Walton brings in a learning environment for the young core, relating to them on a personal level. With his experience both playing, as a 10-year veteran, and coaching, as an assistant on a championship team, Walton has the players excited heading into the next season.
A change in coaching staff seems to be exactly what D’Angelo Russell needed. Heading into his second season, Russell seems to have taken a brighter outlook.
The Ohio native dominated during the summer league, averaging 21.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and four assists per game. His game winner against Philadelphia officially began the ‘ice in my veins’ celebration, which has turned into his moniker.
The different style of coaching seems to have already shown a difference, with Russell stating a big change between last season, via Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
“Last off-season was Looney Tunes,” Russell said Tuesday. “Wasn’t real. I didn’t get nothing out of it.”
This off-season has been different for the second overall pick of the 2015 draft.
“Fun,” Russell said. “Real fun. The team, I feel like, is growing.”
That is a big difference for Russell and the rest of the young Lakers and something Walton has spoken about in the past. He wants things to be fun for his team, believing that an environment of that nature will make players more likely to come in, work on their game, and improve.
Russell certainly seems to enjoy this style and atmosphere more even saying that his rookie season wouldn’t have been quite as tough:
“I feel like if I came into the league this year, in this environment, it wouldn’t have been as tough,” Russell said. “Even if Kobe was here, it still wouldn’t have been as tough.”
Last season, Byron Scott constantly referred to his method as an old school type of coaching, with younger players such as Russell not responding immediately. Scott had no problems being hard on his young guys even in the media.
Perhaps the biggest hindrance on the growth of the rookies happened to be the departure of a legend. Once Kobe Bryant announced that the 2015-16 season would be his last, the precedence for Bryant’s farewell tour seemed to take over at the expense of developing the young guys.
While Russell understood the importance of sending Bryant out the right way, it doesn’t mean the environment maximized the ability to grow for young players.
Now that all of that is behind him, however, the time for Russell to take that next step is now.