With the ball in his hands, Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell could arguably face a number of decisions with every possession. Should he take advantage of his offseason focus in the post and work in that area? Should he use his court vision to find an open teammate that an opponent has not noticed? Or should he rely on his emerging outside shot?
All of those decisions could determine how much Russell emerges from a rookie season that both featured promise in his potential and hiccups with his role and leadership. Those decisions could influence how much the Lakers run their offense based on ball movement over one-on-one play. And those decisions could affect to what degree Russell becomes a complete player, scorer or passer.
All of which has given Lakers coach Luke Walton an intriguing puzzle to sort out once training camp begins on Sept. 27.
“As a coaching staff, we’ll push him in the right direction as far as what we see he should be doing at that time,” Walton said in a recent interview with Southern California News Group. “But ultimately, you want him to be able to recognize that stuff on his own.”
Walton quickly ticked off a list of future Hall-of-Famers that usually perfected that dynamic well, including Clippers guard Chris Paul, former Phoenix Suns and Lakers guard Steve Nash and former Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
“Kobe knew if we were playing like [crap] that he would score and carry us until we started playing better,” said Walton, reflecting on his 10-year NBA career that was mostly with the Lakers. “That’s why we always had a chance. It’s a skill that can be developed and is something our coaching staff will be in constant conversation about. That’s something we’ll see [D’Angelo] get better at as the years go on.”