Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton faces the daunting task of rebuilding one of the league’s most storied franchises, which means that all eyes will be on him as he attempts to bring the purple and gold back to the top of the NBA hierarchy. The roster that he has inherited may be lacking in veteran talent, but they do have a number of youngsters who have plenty of potential, including Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr., and Ivica Zubac.
However, with star guard Kobe Bryant lost to retirement, it appears that it will be up to point guard D’Angelo Russell to take on more of a leadership role on the team. That’s a lot to ask the 20-year-old Russell, but based on Walton’s comments to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, it appears that he is ready to accept the challenge:
“He’s ready to take the steps forward in this league toward becoming a leader, becoming a top point guard and competing every single night. There’s a lot of growth to be had still. But he showed me he wants three things. He wants to be great. He wants to win. And he wants to lead. That’s what I want out of a point guard.”
We have already seen Russell begin to step into a leadership role during Summer League, where he directed traffic on the court and helped mentor rookie Brandon Ingram off of it. In a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Lakers drew up a play to get the ball into Russell’s hands, and he stepped up and hit a three at the buzzer (with ice in his veins) to get the win.
While the Lakers are moving into uncertain territory, it appears that they will look to Russell to lead the way on the court, just as Walton does on the sidelines. There will be bumps along the way, but if nothing else, this should be a great season for growth in Los Angeles.