Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell had an up and down rookie season during which he struggled to adapt to the NBA and coach Byron Scott, but also showed flashes of brilliance and ice in his veins. Now, with Scott gone and Kobe Bryant lost to retirement, the pressure will be on Russell and the rest of the young Lakers to step up and prove their worth.
The Lakers have brought in player-friendly coach Luke Walton to connect with the young players and install a more open, up-tempo offense inspired by the Golden State Warriors, which should help Russell spread his wings a bit. Russell has spent the summer working on his game in preparation for his larger role, which he detailed in an interview with Oliver Maroney of Basketball Insiders:
“This offseason has been great. I’ve had an opportunity to really get in the gym, meet the new coaching staff and my new teammates. Getting that chemistry built early has been a huge plus. I’m also working on a lot of things to improve my game – mainly with my consistency on jump-shots, floaters and finishing around the rim.”
Russell’s focus on improving floaters and finishing around the basket is a wise one, as the addition of Timofey Mozgov and his ability to set massive screens should mean even more opportunities for Russell to get into the teeth of the defense.
It’s also great to hear Russell mention the chemistry that he is developing with his teammates. Even with all of the focus placed on superstar players, basketball is still a team sport, and chemistry absolutely matters.
The Lakers have put together a team with young talent across every position, and the potential is there for them to grow together for years to come. If they can develop a solid foundation of trust and teamwork now, while they are still developing, it could really pay dividends when Russell and and the rest hit their peak.