After Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour last season, the helm of the young Lakers ship has all but been vacated. Although recent reports seem to indicate the young LA squad has finally found their leader in sophomore guard, D’Angelo Russell.
Though last year was pretty much a disaster season for the Lakers, a noticeable improvement was seen in Russell’s rookie year. After averaging 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals in 28.2 minutes per game during the first half of last season, he was able to bring up his PPG average to 15.1 shooting 38.9 percent from three-point range.
Summer league showed, even more, promise where the guard averaged 21.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, four assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range in four games.
“D’Angelo had a terrific Summer League. In my opinion, he belonged to the All-NBA Summer League First Team,” shared fellow Laker Larry Nance Jr. “He’s already gained my trust and my respect.”
And it isn’t just Nance Jr. who acknowledged Russell’s vastly improving game. New head coach Luke Walton has also commended the guard seeing his potential to lead the team to (hopefully) playoff contention.
“He’s ready to take the steps forward in this league toward becoming a leader, becoming a top point guard and competing every single night,” Walton shared with the LA Daily News. “There’s a lot of growth to be had still. But he showed me he wants three things. He wants to be great. He wants to win. And he wants to lead. That’s what I want out of a point guard.”
For D’Angelo Russell, it’s all about the team
So what does Russell think about all the pressure that seems to be being mounted on his shoulder? The young guard does seem to maintain a semblance of humility and focus on working with the team, rather than holding the reins of the team.
“I feel like with this team, we have, we’ll be successful. Nobody’s saying, ‘You’re going to be the next Kobe…’” shared Russell with Basketball Insiders. “I want to be the best point guard for this team and make sure it’s in a winning fashion. For me, it’s always about winning as a team. I just want to grow and improve, game after game.”
If D’Angelo Russell does maintain this kind of mentality, though, he may have the workings to become not just a good leader, but a great teammate.
Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison/ Flickr