After a tumultuous rookie season, D’Angelo Russell seems to have found happiness and excitement to play basketball again. Russell had one of the most unfavorable rookie seasons a lottery player can have. He played under a coach that failed to use him properly. He was involved in an off-court drama that clearly affected his relationship with his teammates. His name was constantly surrounded by trade talks. At times, Russell didn’t seem happy playing the sport he loves, but on Tuesday afternoon, he was like a kid on Christmas morning waiting to see his new prize.
D'Angelo Russell is at the Lakers' practice facility for Luke Walton's intro press conference
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) June 21, 2016
On Monday night, Russell tweeted out this about his new coach:
Although it was simple and short, you could feel Russell’s excitement toward a coach that you couldn’t find with his time playing under Byron Scott. And if that tweet wasn’t a clear indicator that Russell already loves Luke Walton, his interview with the media sure amplified that love.
Throughout the interview, Russell expresses his enthusiasm and eagerness to play under his new coach:
“Let’s get it,” Russell said. “Let’s go. I’m excited man. I got a hoodie on and I’m sweating right now. Coach is in here and I’m like let’s go”.
When asked about Walton’s emphasis and culture on playing basketball with joy, Russell’s eyes and voice lit up.
“I’m excited right now,” Russell answered. “I’m ready for summer league. I’m ready for the first game. I’m ready for the preseason. I’m ready for the first practice. I’m ready for all of that.”
There were times last season where you could feel heaviness in Russell’s voice. You could feel his dejection toward the game of basketball. You couldn’t help but feel bad for him.
Luckily, most of that sentiment changed on Tuesday afternoon. Russell is clearly enthusiastic and zealous to play basketball. He couldn’t contain his delight to play in the summer league. I’m sure most of the young players on the team express the same pleasure and happiness that Russell showed on Tuesday. The Lakers’ future is bright and sometimes all it takes is just playing basketball with a lot of fun and joy. It’s really not that complicated.