The Los Angeles Lakers are no longer in rebuild mode. The Kobe Bryant era is officially over, and all excess baggage will be gone if the Lakers can somehow trade Nick Young. It’s time to start fresh and the man leading the way will be 2nd year PG, D’Angelo Russell.
Russell struggled last season for so many reasons that we lost track, but three were due to Kobe’s presence, Bryon Scott not knowing how to manage young players and the third, him being a rookie PG. A rookie coming into the league is hard enough but a rookie PG is harder. To make matters worse this is L.A., big market, Hollywood stars and a rich tradition of winning.
But Russell was ready, there was no denying he had the skills to compete at this level, he just needed the backing, and that he didn’t get in 2015. But this is a new year, a new coach, new teammates and new expectations. Will he be able to handle the pressure now that he’s officially the guy?
Russell ended 2015 with averages of 13 points, three assists, and three rebounds in only 48 starts while playing 29 minutes. Scott had no faith in the young player as he often sat Russell or pulled him during the 4th quarter. There was no time for him to build any real chemistry with his team and his play suffered from that. Now, with new HC Luke Walton taking charge, we can expect to see a different player, much like the one we witnessed at Summer League last month where he averaged 22 points per game.
Another upside for Russell besides Kobe and Scott being gone is his new teammates. Jordan Clarkson will return and take over for Bryant, as will Julius Randle but now he has another veteran in Luol Deng and former Cleveland Cavalier, Timofey Mozgov in the middle replacing offensively challenged Roy Hibbert.
If Walton can get the Lakers to run an uptempo offense, then Russell will shine. They have the athletes to get the job done; it’s just a matter of execution and it all starts with the point man. If Russell can improve on his assists and perimeter game which during Summer League action he looked good, then he could be in store for a historic turnaround.