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Luke Walton says D’Angelo Russell is ready to lead the Lakers

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It continues to sound as though the former second overall pick is ready to take the reins in Los Angeles.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers-Press Conference Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

A ton is expected from Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell going into his sophomore season. The 2016-17 season will be Russell’s first under new Lakers head coach not Byron Scott Luke Walton, and the assumption is that Russell will have the proverbial leash taken off him.

If Russell is finally be allowed the type of offensive freedom that was so often denied to him last year as the ghost of Kobe Bryant hijacked around 30 percent of the Lakers’ possessions while Scott alternated between criticizing and benching him, Russell will be expected to produce more efficiently than he did as a rookie. Count Walton among those who believe Russell is up to the challenge of being the Lakers’ number one option.

“He’s ready to take the steps forward in this league toward becoming a leader, becoming a top point guard and competing every single night,” Walton told Mark Medina in the L.A. Daily News in a larger feature discussing his plans for Russell. “There’s a lot of growth to be had still. But he showed me he wants three things. He wants to be great. He wants to win. And he wants to lead. That’s what I want out of a point guard.”

The three boxes Walton says Russell ticks are obviously crucial to how good he can be as the Lakers move forward with their rebuild, and it’s been refreshing to hear how bullish the coaching staff has been on Russell all summer.

The kind words from Walton are also an encouraging sign given the questions many had about Russell’s maturity after a rookie season that was perhaps most notorious for a leaked video incident and a coaching staff that didn’t think Russell worked hard enough.

All of the negativity of Russell’s rookie campaign seems to be in the rear view mirror. While it will be up to the guard to show the requisite growth on the floor to keep the positivity train rolling, the latest comments from Walton certainly help continue to paint a prettier picture with just a week left until the start of training camp.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.