The Los Angeles Lakers are heading into unfamiliar territory as they prepare to start their first season in 20 years without superstar guard Kobe Bryant. While Bryant’s retirement leaves a massive void to be filled, all early indications are that sophomore guard D’Angelo Russell will be ready to take on some of the leadership and playmaking burdens.
Last season was something of a rollercoaster for Russell, who struggled to establish himself while under the watchful eye of then-coach Byron Scott. The general assumption is that with Luke Walton now at the helm, Russell will be given the freedom that he needs in order to truly shine.
Bob Perez of Fox Sports recently caught up with Russell, and the young guard confirmed that Walton will indeed give him more leeway this season:
“He wants me to shoot the ball when I’m open. When a coach tells you to shoot the ball, it’s like a green light for you. You can’t want that more than anything. But the catch is you got to be good enough to know that when you’re not open, you gotta pass. That’s the responsibility he’s thrown at me and everybody.”
While it’s excellent to hear that Walton is giving Russell the green light to shoot whenever he is open, Russell following that up by mentioning that he also has to also take on the responsibility of knowing when to pass is an excellent sign. There were times last season when Russell struggled with his decision making, often trying to force passes that weren’t there. Still, he can improve quickly as he gets more accustomed to the NBA and comfortable running an offense, particularly one that plays to his strengths, as Walton’s likely will.
Russell hasn’t his excitement to start the new season playing for Walton, and if all goes according to plan, we should see a much more entertaining Lakers offense.