Jordan Clarkson literally ran circles around his house when he found out, and the rest of Los Angeles mostly did the same when Luke Walton was hired as the Lakers' next head coach. In a larger feature story on D'Angelo Russell's summer, the sophomore guard revealed that none other than Kobe Bryant left him just as excited for Walton's tenure.
"I'm beyond happy," Russell told Broderick Turner of the L.A. Times of Walton's hiring. "I've heard so much about him. Kobe even said Luke is one of the top two coaches in this league in this day and age. I'm just looking forward to being coached and pushed."
This isn't the first time Bryant has offered such big praise for Walton, and doing so privately to Russell shows it's more than just being polite to a former teammate. Back in November, when Walton was in the midst of his interim stint as head coach of the Golden State Warriors, Bryant compared Walton to one of the best coaches of all-time.
"I used to call him the next Phil," Bryant said of the job Walton was doing, although he couldn't resist an opportunity to rib both of his former colleagues as well. "He's an average player w/ a messed up back."
No matter how average Bryant says his playing career was, Russell told Turner he thinks it will help Walton excel at connecting with his Lakers roster next season:
"I think he'll relate great, especially with the younger guys and the older guys," Russell said. "The older guys are his age, and then the younger guys he can relate to because he's seen that growth over in the Golden State organization. It's a great fit."
Walton seems to have already used that ability to relate to get buy-in from Russell and the lap-running Clarkson, while Julius Randle has said he thinks his new head coach can help him take some aspects from Draymond Green's game.
Walton likely won't be one of the best two coaches in the NBA right off the bat, and no one knows how he'll ultimately do as a full-time head coach, but this type of excitement from his core players will give him as great of a chance as possible to live up to the hype following his hiring.
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