A change of scenery can be quite the upgrade. Just ask Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell, entering his second season in the NBA. After receiving little help during his transition into the NBA, Russell seemed at times to be alone. While he and former head coach Byron Scott clashed on a constant basis, the page has turned for Russell.
The Lakers made the move this offseason to fire Scott and hiring Luke Walton as the coach of the future. As a younger coach, the Lakers believe Walton will provide a proper learning atmosphere for the young core of the Lakers.
As a 10-year veteran and former assistant coach of the Golden State Warriors, Walton hopes to provide a winning culture, while being able to bond on a personal basis with the younger players.
Russell, fresh off his rookie campaign, seems to have already noted a significant difference with Walton and his staff, according to Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
“The coaching staff, the whole atmosphere that this coaching staff brings is different. I’m not saying better, I’m not downgrading the last coaching staff. I’m just saying the atmosphere they bring every day is a winning mentality.”
Fresh off of an impressive summer league, Russell and fellow guard Jordan Clarkson will lead the attack entering Walton’s first season as a head coach.
With an expected up-tempo offense, the change of pace will be a quick one. Russell has been in contact with Walton, with the head coach giving him the perennial green light entering the season.
For Russell, the specific style of coaching seems to be paying off. Often times, receiving that one-on-one education from a coach can be all the difference in the world:
“I can’t give any specific information, just kind of coaching me through it,” Russell said. “Just giving me the guidance on how to do right. And when I do right, he lets you know, ‘I saw, I noticed […] It’s almost like you kind of knew you were capable, it’s just getting the opportunity,” Russell said. “It’s all opportunity and being in the right system, the right program.”
The positive reinforcement is crucial for this new era of basketball, with the NBA rapidly evolving. While the Lakers aren’t expected to compete this season, the underdog role seems to be the exact role the franchise wants.
During his rookie campaign, Russell averaged 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in 28.2 minutes per game. The 2015-16 All-Rookie second team selection will take the reigns entering his second season, with a coaching staff that believes he can take that next step.