The interactions often become animated as Luke Walton pulls Julius Randle to the side with more feedback.
Walton harps on Randle’s effort. Randle occasionally allows his competitive nature and frustration in the heat of the game to affect his reaction. Nonetheless, Randle mostly soaks in the feedback, mindful that Walton’s words fuel his desire to become great.
Those images hardly match how Walton has coached second-year guard D’Angelo Russell entering Tuesday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers (16-23) at Staples Center. Although Walton challenged Russell to adopt a more regimented routine, the Lakers’ coach conceded his approach is “different with D’Angelo.”
“We talk more about what I see and what he sees,” Walton said. “But I don’t get on him the same way I get on Julius. But I guess you could say it’s similar. It’s about personal growth. But I don’t get on him as hard as I get on Julius.”
The reasoning seems simple.
Said Walton: “I just found he responds to different coaching approaches than what Julius does.”
After all, Russell did not always handle honest feedback well from former Lakers coach Byron Scott, who also had instructed Russell to formulate a routine. Instead, Walton has provided Russell positive reinforcement both to emphasize his strengths and address his weaknesses.
“It’s been great,” Russell said of Walton’s feedback. “The routine has been really big for me. It’s carried over to the games. I realize that and will keep running with it.”
In what he estimated to be the past four or five games, Russell has adopted a daily routine that entails shooting after practice, performing the same stretches and lifting the same amount of weights following practice. Before, Russell still spent his day working, but the routine seemed more random.
Since then, Russell said he has “a lot more energy to compete.” In the past five games, Russell has averaged 20.8 points on 46.7 percent shooting and 5.0 assists in 31 minutes.
“He threw it at me,” Russell said of Walton. “I didn’t think I needed it. He suggested it toward me so I started doing it.”
Russell has also started working closely with Lakers assistant coach Jesse Mermuys, whom Russell has nicknamed “Nemo” because he believes he looks like “a little fish.” Meanwhile, Russell and Randle have harped on each other in practice and games anytime they make a mistake.
“It’s important,” Randle said. “As leaders of the team we hold each other accountable and not let each other slack off.”
Walton has not allowed Russell to slack off either, though his approach hardly has become as demonstrative during his heated albeit constructive conversations with Randle.
“I’m still a young coach; I’m still learning about how to become a coach and what’s the most effective way to do it,” Walton said. “I’m learning more about our players and how we grow as a team.”