Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell never really had a daily routine or a set schedule, and he also admits that he never really thought he needed one. Russell would come in and get his shots up before or after practice, get in the weight room, sometimes before practice, sometimes after, stretch sporadically, but there was never a routine he strictly followed.
Head coach Luke Walton noticed Russell’s lack of consistency and had talks with him about it, but it wasn’t until assistant coach Jesse Mermuys vigorously pushed him to stick to a routine, that it all started to click.
“Our relationship is great,” Russell said of working with Mermuys. “Working with him everyday after practice, his intel is great, his constructive criticism is great.”
“That’s Coach Mermuys and him,” Walton responded when asked about his involvement in Russell’s new schedule. “He made a commitment to Jesse a couple weeks ago, and he stuck to it, done it every single day since then, but I’m obviously in the loop and talk to them and see where we’re at.”
“He kinda threw it at me,” Russell said of Mermuys pressing him to commit to a routine. “I didn’t think I needed it, but since I’ve been doing it, it’s been great…We shoot after practice everyday…same stretches, same weight whenever I lift, sometimes I [used to] lift before [or] sometimes after, but now I lift after, every time.”
Walton thinks it’s that routine and new level of professionalism that’s allowed Russell to step up his game.
“I think everyone that follows us closely has seen a change, and his numbers have also seen a change. His level of play has gone way up since (creating and sticking to a routine),” Walton said.
Russell scored 17 points (on 7-of-10 shooting) to go along with eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals on Sunday night in their win over the Orlando Magic, the first time in his career he’s had such numbers in all three categories. But, it wasn’t just Sunday night. Russell has scored 15 or more points in each of the past six games, been aggressive defensively and is making smarter passes. His numbers through the five games he’s played in January are better than any five-game stretch this season, averaging 20.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists (to just 1.4 turnovers), and 2.0 steals.
“[I’m] maturing. Trying to mature, treat the game right, and come with that approach everyday. It’s [creating] a habit,” Russell said after Sunday night’s game.
“The guidance,” Russell said when asked about why it’s taken him so long to create a routine. “I had no idea that a routine was well-needed. I just showed up…lifted, worked out after, whatever it was. I didn’t have a specific routine, the guidance from Jesse and Coach Luke, they kinda threw that on me, and I just ran with it.”
It just took a big shove and a trusting relationship with his assistant coach, who he’s created quite the nickname for.
“We call him Nemo, like a little fish, a little guy,” Russell smiled when talking about Coach Mermuys.
“He calls me Dory.”