Last summer, the Los Angeles Lakers decided to shake things up by trading D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, which they used to select Kyle Kuzma.
It was a controversial move, with some believing that Russell’s potential warranted hanging onto him, while others thought that clearing Mozgov’s contract off the books and freeing up minutes for Lonzo Ball made the deal a beneficial one.
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Regardless, the deal was done, and on Friday night fans in Los Angeles had their first look at Russell and Mozgov in Nets jerseys. There was a scattered chorus of boos for both players, which Lakers head coach Luke Walton didn’t agree with, via Bill Oram of the Southern California News Group:
Luke Walton said LA fans “should have love” for Russell and Mozgov. “They didn’t ask to be traded. They played hard for this city.”
— Bill Oram (@billoram) November 4, 2017
Walton certainly has a point. While Russell’s tenure with the Lakers was tumultuous and littered with questions about his maturity, and Mozgov’s contract was a major obstacle to signing free agents next summer, neither asked to be traded.
Additionally, while Mozgov’s contract was a source of frustration for fans (as is Luol Deng’s even larger deal), the Lakers front office were the ones to make the decision to present him with that offer. Mozgov can’t be blamed for signing it.
If it’s any solace to fans still bemoaning the deal, the Lakers defeated the Nets 124-112 while Lopez and Kuzma, who came to Los Angeles in the trade, had their best games of the season.
Lopez put up 34 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks, while rookie sensation Kuzma had 21 points and 13 rebounds in his first outing as a starter following Larry Nance Jr.’s unfortunate injury.