NBA’s Youngest Coach, Luke Walton, Is on the Level with Millennial-Laden Lakers

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – D'Angelo Russell's eyes are sparkling as he makes clear how he feels about his new coach.

"At this level, I don't really know what it takes to win," Russell says. "So from a guy who knows what it takes to win, I can't do anything but sit back and listen."

He is proud that Walton, from their first time together in offseason workouts, requested Russell's voice to break the team's huddles: "This is the point guard! He's the leader!" Walton bellowed. "When he speaks, guys, you gotta listen."

Russell also is struck by how many veteran NBA players have vouched for Walton's character. "You got Luke, man," they told Russell with unmistakable warmth and even a tinge of jealousy. "You're gonna be good." 

After a rookie season that was logically disappointing and uniquely demoralizing, Russell has found a new level of excitement since he appeared at Walton's introductory news conference.

A few weeks later, when the Los Angeles Lakers' young players were asked to attend a ceremony announcing the naming rights to a new practice facility, Russell couldn't contain himself.

While the event figured to see the young Lakers looking like dispirited children sitting through a classical music concert, when Walton was asked to say a few words to the corporate folks, Russell suddenly rose to his feet.

No one else was standing. Russell didn't care. He stood for a solid three seconds and applauded.

It was a surprising show of support, but also of gratitude. Russell feels different than he did before.

"I feel like I know him, you know what I'm sayin'?" Russell explains to B/R. "I feel like I've known him for some years now—and I haven't."

When Russell, 20, describes how it has been to have Walton, 36, on the court with the young Lakers, actually playing basketball with and against them in informal offseason gatherings, the comfort l...

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