Since Luke Walton was hired by the Los Angeles Lakers, there has been nothing but an outpouring of love for the new head coach. A young coach coming from the best regular season of all time, Walton should be able to relate to the young core of the team while helping them develop into better players.
D’Angelo Russell has been especially vocal about Walton and the rest of the coaching staff. After an up-and-down rookie year in the Purple and Gold, it’s no surprise that Russell is excited to be playing under new leadership. Getting unleashed with the keys to a better offensive system should help the young point guard improve by leaps and bounds.
SLAM: As of Luke Walton’s hire in late April ’til now, what are some of the things you guys have talked about?
DR: Luke is a great dude on and off the court and we’re just excited. Every time I talk to him, it’s talking about the next way to be better as a whole, as a group. And he’s one of the most positive guys I know, too. My college coach [Ohio State’s Thad Matta] was the most positive guy I knew and Luke is right there in competition with him. I’m just blessed to have those guys.
SLAM: Before I even said Luke Walton’s name, you gave a “Hell yeah!”-type expression. Was that because you’re really looking forward to having him as your coach?
DR: Yeah, I just know how good we’re going to be and we’re going to be going down the right path as far as being the best we can be. And I feel like everybody is all in and with his demeanor, mentality and the way he carries himself, the way he supports us, the way he is as a coach, I feel like if somebody walked in the gym and didn’t know who he was, they wouldn’t be able to tell that he was the head coach. He doesn’t come off like that. He comes off as a player, honestly, and a vet. I just know that’s the successful way to go in this league.
It’s no surprise to see Russell’s comments after everything else that has been said this offseason. Nevertheless, the amiability of Walton in Russell’s eyes is a great sight. Having a trustworthy and relatable head coach and mentor should help Russell’s growth.
Russell’s role as a offensive initiator on the team comes into play here. Having Walton’s trust to be the coach on the floor while making some mistakes along the way can only help him develop into a great floor general.
More importantly, Walton’s focus on growing the team as a whole (as D’Lo mentions) is crucial. The Lakers are lucky to have a talented young core that can grow together. Developing them as a team from the beginning could eventually lead to a building something special with all (or at least most) of this core present.
Luke Walton has not held training camp yet, much less coached an actual game for the Lakers. But his impact on the team can already be felt. It’s too soon to give out any judgment for the first-time head coach, but so far, Walton is passing the test with flying colors.