Dennis Schröder’s return to Los Angeles this offseason was hardly one akin to the Prodigal Son. Although his last tenure was largely a positive one on the court, his departure was awkward to say the least.
Ultimately, though, the two sides were able to put aside any lingering issues or differences to reunite for another season that will see Schröder in purple and gold. To get things over the line, a connection dating back nearly a decade persuaded Schröder to seal the deal.
Back in 2013 when Schröder was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, a young coach by the name of Darvin Ham was on the staff and the two formed a bond that has lasted since.
“That was the main reason, to be honest,” Schröder said after practice on Monday. “Been with him since 2013 when I got drafted in Atlanta, and he’s been nothing but great to me. Learning from him, you know, over the years, staying in touch. He had camps in Germany where I came through to support him. So I call him family and he knows that, so whatever it takes to win a ballgame, I’m doing it.”
Schröder and Ham both stayed in Atlanta together through the 2018 season before the former moved on to Oklahoma City and the latter to Milwaukee. Given the chance to reconnect on the court again this season, Schröder seized the opportunity, even if it meant returning to a place where he left with some egg on his face.
The familiarity not just with Ham but with playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, though, will certainly help Schröder integrate back into the team, even if he hasn’t clarified his role yet.
“I don’t know, but I’m gonna make sure everything I can do, I bring to the team to win ball games,” he said. “I mean coach Darvin knows, he knows me for 10 years now. He knows what I bring. Whatever it is, you know, I’m gonna do whatever to get a W and to finish the unfinished business.”
One of the biggest differences between his last tenure and this one is the presence of Russell Westbrook, who will certainly at least begin the season as the starting point guard, a role Schröder had last time around.
The two spent a season together in Oklahoma City in 2018-19 where Schröder averaged 15.5 points and 4.1 assists in 79 games with only 14 of those as a starter. Although Westbrook would depart for Houston via trade that following offseason, the two built some camaraderie that could carry over into this season.
“Russ is my guy. I mean, he helped me so much when I was there and even after that, you know,” Schröder said. “He is like my big brother, he helping me, we staying in touch and to play with him again. It’s gonna be great. Was fun times, positive vibes with him every single time and I can’t wait to get to work with him and with everyone else.”
Given all these connections between the coach, the franchise and the players, it’s perhaps not so surprising that Schröder returned to Los Angeles for a second run in the purple and gold this season.