Shortly before the 2017 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers traded D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets, receiving Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in return. It was a shocking move, as Russell was the second overall pick in the draft back in 2015 and was considered to be a big part of their rebuilding effort.
Still, rumors had persisted behind the scenes that questioned Russell’s maturity, and with Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka taking the helm, a priority was placed on freeing up cap space for the summer of 2018. The previous regime had saddled the franchise with the bloated contracts of Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng, and it wouldn’t be cheap to convince another club to absorb a deal that large.
For his part, Russell knew that his future was subject to change when Johnson and Pelinka took over, as he explained to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN on his podcast:
“They didn’t draft me. It’s all different and see you around the league when specifically GMs don’t draft you, they are ready to get rid of you or use you as a tool. I really didn’t know. I had a relationship before Magic was the GM with them. Obviously that changes. I never knew, so I was going in everyday just trying to be tunnel vision with it and keep moving and work hard. Whatever they decided to do with me was whatever.”
As Russell notes, Johnson and Pelinka had no part in selecting him two years ago, and as such may not have felt the same attachment to him that the previous regime did, and that may have played a role in his departure.
With Russell gone, the Lakers will now hand the point guard duties to this year’s second overall pick, Lonzo Ball. They will wish Russell the best, and move forward into a new era.