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Clarkson, Russell Aim for Strides Over Offseason
Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell are currently in China, serving as ambassadors for the NBA, but the Lakers' guards have been more familiar with the weight room than the road over their brief offseason.
Both are part of the Lakers' "Breakfast Club" — the nickname given to the crop of young players who regularly show up for early-morning workouts with strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco. The group, which also includes Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown, has helped Clarkson already put on a few pounds of muscle, while Russell has set his mind to making similar growth.
“I’m just living in the weight room,” Russell said in a phone interview from China. “Just trying to become stronger. Last season was a shock playing against grown men that have been in the league for multiple years. You compare your strength to theirs and see where you really are. That’s something I want to focus on in this offseason.”
According to DiFrancesco, the Second Team All-Rookie selection has already put that plan into motion, as DiFrancesco flew out to Russell's hometown of Louisville early in the offseason for a series of workouts.
Russell hopes the endgame will see him able to make more use out of his 6-foot-5 frame, as he found success posting up at his position toward the end of his first season.
“Being stronger will help me post up more than just point guards throughout the year,” Russell said. “I try to post up and take advantage of smaller guards. I was successful at times, but being stronger will help me post up multiple different positions than smaller guards.”
Meanwhile, Clarkson — who, at the end of the season, expressed a desire to make significant improvements to his defense — has a sample platter of skills he wants to develop on the offensive end.
“I’ve been working a lot on a little bit of everything,” Clarkson said. “I’m trying to improve my 3-point percentage going into next year. Working on a lot of stuff off the dribble; playing through contact and finishing at the rim. A big thing for me is trying to work on slowing down and not rushing plays, so I can be able to make plays for my teammates.”
Both guards will be making plays under new leadership this year, as they have already spoken briefly with new head coach Luke Walton.
The 36-year-old Walton, who has said that he plans to run an offensive system similar to what he helps run at Golden State, was a smart hire in the eyes of his new backcourt.
“The style of play that he’s trying to bring does really fit us,” Clarkson said. “He’s a young guy. I feel like he can relate to us. He’s just somebody you can grow with as well, especially us young guys.”
Plus, both players were, of course, happy to hear that their team retained its first-round draft pick this year, and will be selecting at No. 2 overall. Russell, in particular, expressed confidence in General Manager Mitch Kupchak's handling of the opportunity.
“I know Mitch and his staff will do a great job taking advantage of it,” Russell said. “I don’t know if it’s trading it or drafting — whatever it is, he’s going to make the right decision.”
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