Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
> D’Angelo Russell recently said his rookie season was “bad.” Do you expect a better 2016-17 out of him? And what is one thing you want to see him improve on?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’m just going to say “basketball” and leave it right here. For a guy whose rookie season got defined by shenanigans, even his clever, face-saving sneaker commercial had nothing to do with him helping his team get better. Why do I think he’d be better served by playing in Oklahoma City, Minnesota or Sacramento, as far as limited distractions? Russell can be a better shooter, more efficient passer and lock-down defender, but not until his name appears in John Schuhmann’s numbers-crunchings way more often than on TMZ Sports.
Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Based on everything I’ve heard, the kid has grown up, from a basketball standpoint. He really wants to be a star. He put in the work over the summer. He knows he let some people down. That’s a good start and refreshing attitude. Leadership is the one area where he needs the most improvement and he has recognized that. Sometimes we forget that these guys are still teenagers on the maturity clock. He and coach Luke Walton are forging a solid relationship and the results of that will be apparent on the court.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: There are a lot of reasons to believe he’ll be better. The summer after your rookie year should be your most productive summer, because you got a taste of the league and know where you have to improve. There will be no deferring to the Kobe Farewell Tour this season and Luke Walton should be a more encouraging coach. Obviously, pick-and-roll decision-making is going to be critical for him, but he also needs to take a big step forward defensively.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Seeing is believing with D’Angelo Russell. He can talk all he wants about what happened during his rookie season, good and bad, but his maturity will be measured by the growth I see in his game and in his understanding of what it takes to be a leader of a team. He showed plenty of flashes on the court. But the leadership component is more important than anything else right now. The Lakers are sure to face some struggles this season and they’ll be searching for an identity as a group under coach Luke Walton. Russell has to step up, he has to lead as the point guard and figure out a way to repair his credibility in the locker room. While I hate heaping that responsibility on a player so young, the Lakers have no choice but to put him on that hot seat this season. The baby steps days are over.
Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: He’ll definitely be better. But can Russell be an elite star? That is the bottom line for a franchise that has been defined by A-list talent for decades. The one thing Russell must establish is a starring presence – even though he is not exceptional athletically and he has no dominating teammates. He must create a new era. No other young star will be held to such a high standard. It is asking a lot of someone with so much still to learn.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Started from the bottom now we’re here? I think the type of season Russell turns in should tell us a lot about him, and whether he can learn from a bumpy rookie road. Russell had some great showings at the Las Vegas Summer League, but that’s Summer League. I do think he’ll get a boost from the change in coaching staff, and hopefully have more of a chance to play and display what he can do on the court. I also wonder if the presence of Brandon Ingram will serve to take just enough of the spotlight off Russell to allow him to shine.