A lot has changed in regards to the culture of the Los Angeles Lakers in the past few months as not only has their leader Kobe Bryant retired, but they have also hired Luke Walton to be their next head coach and lead that change.
With Bryant no longer on the team leadership needs to come from elsewhere. Walton recently said that he sees leadership qualities in a few of his players though, namely D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., Luol Deng and Lou Williams.
Russell in particular has the capability of being the team’s leader moving forward as the team’s starting point guard and perhaps most talented player.
In a recent interview with Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, Russell talked about being a leader and how Walton has helped him develop into one:
“He hasn’t necessarily said that to the team but it’s more just little things,” Russell said. “When we bring it in at the huddle it’s like ‘what we got point guard?’ and he’s talking to me and I’m like ‘oh, we got team on three!’ So it’s just like a sense of urgency, just little things like that. It’s never been a sit everybody down ‘hey D’Angelo is our guy.’ It’s never been like that and I wouldn’t want him to do that. It’s more at the end of the day you have to earn it so if you have that credibility and you earn it then guys will respect your voice more. So when I speak now people kind of listen and they kind of look for me for guidance if they don’t know a play, that’s the best feeling for me.”
Despite a challenging rookie season both on and off the court, Russell still averaged 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists and was named to the All-Rookie Second Team.
2016-17 will be a big year for him as he continues to develop. He showcased plenty of improvements during the summer league and preseason and now Russell will have his first chance to show what he can do in the real games as the Lakers host the Houston Rockets on opening night.