Heading into the matchup against the Miami Heat, there was controversy surrounding Los Angeles Lakers guards D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young. A video of the two players having a private conversation was leaked and there was a report of the team isolating themselves from the rookie.
Before the game, Russell addressed the media where he was apologetic for his actions and is willing to do whatever is necessary to regain the trust of his teammates.
With adversity surrounding him, Kobe Bryant had a message for his rookie teammate according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
Russell credited Kobe and dad both telling him, "You got to just play."
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) March 31, 2016
Following the 102-100 win over the Heat, Bryant publicly discussed the situation according to Ryan Ward of Examiner:
Kobe Bryant on D’Angelo situation: “It’s just unfortunate, man. It’s tough.”
— Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA) March 31, 2016
It is unfortunate for everyone involved and it will take some time for the team to come together. While this will continue to be discussed, Russell and Young took the first step by addressing the situation.
With seven games remaining in the season, the Lakers look to finish on a high note. While Bryant (general soreness) was limited to nine minutes against the Heat, the young core stepped up in the final minutes as Julius Randle made a game-winner with 1.9 seconds remaining in overtime.
Heading into the off-season, the Lakers will be armed with a top-three protected draft pick as well as a projected $65 million to pursue top free agents. With this being the third season of not making the playoffs, the franchise has another opportunity to quickly rebuild themselves into contenders.