With the new era of basketball about to begin, how can the Los Angeles Lakers not be excited? The young core tacked on another season under their belts, with rookie Brandon Ingram and head coach Luke Walton set to join the future.
Walton, the youngest head coach in the NBA, is set to take the reigns and rebuild the franchise toward becoming a respected team.
For any head coach, the bond between them and their players takes precedence over all. The 36-year-old head coach is set to implement a younger, updated philosophy, compared to that of older generations. With a young roster and expected up-tempo offense, Walton’s philosophy should resonate with the players.
That outlook is quite the contrast from former head coach Byron Scott, who was stern in using his old-school ideals to punish the players, rather than teach them.
No player perhaps suffered more from that style than D’Angelo Russell. The point guard had his fair share of difficulties and clashes with Byron Scott, even stating he didn’t learn anything from his first offseason in the NBA.
However, Walton and Russell have formed quite the bond. In a recent interview with Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, Russell stated the close bond he and Walton have already formed:
“I feel like I know him, you know what I’m sayin’?” Russell explains to B/R. “I feel like I’ve known him for some years now—and I haven’t.”
According to the piece, Russell remains in constant contact with his head coach, either picking at his mind or humorously sending him highlights from his 10-year career.
The Lakers average age on the roster, which is tilted towards the early twenties, could be a weakness in terms of inexperience. However, their eager minds allow Walton to implement the philosophies from the game he has learned.
Walton has entrusted Russell as a vocal leader of the team, even stating that Russell must break the huddles in practices because he is the voice of the team. Russell summarized their relationship not as a father-son connection, but as someone he looks up to and can learn from:
“I look at him more as a big brother figure,” Russell says of his new coach. “I can’t say father figure. Not just like an old guy walking around…or a guy who is just talking and talking.”
Russell is coming off his rookie campaign, where he averaged 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.2 steals per game.
Now with a coach he admires, Russell is expected to take a leap entering his second season as a potential leader of the franchise.