One of the first major moves by the Los Angeles Lakers under president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka was trading D’Angelo Russell and the awful contract of Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for one year of Brook Lopez and a first-round draft pick that eventually became Kyle Kuzma.
The move was praised at the time, due to the Lakers ridding themselves of the Mozgov deal and opening up a second max slot for free agency. However, Russell, who Johnson felt was, ‘not a leader,’ has since blossomed into an All-Star with the Nets.
Russell, after his win against the Lakers where he officially eliminated them from the playoffs, reflected on his time in L.A., the trade, and how he feels about the organization that traded him, via USA Today Sports:
“I’m going to say this to say this, this league is about opportunity and situation. So when I say opportunity, I think the opportunity would have been completely different if I was still in L.A. It’s the type of organization that will trade you to kind of bring in what they want. And, the situation, no telling who the head coach would’ve been, no telling who the players would have been next to me, no telling.”
It seems to be commonplace today to call the Russell trade a failure on the Lakers end, but the young point guard certainly makes a great point. Because the trade was now almost two years ago, and so much has changed for both organizations, there’s no telling if Russell would’ve had the same success had he remained with the Lakers.
Maybe him, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram would’ve struggled to work together due to similar on-ball tendencies. Maybe the lack of a second max-contract slot, and not having the flexibility that comes with it, would’ve prevented LeBron James from signing.
Perhaps the Lakers package Russell, Ball and Ingram in order to get Anthony Davis, and he ends up getting traded anyway.
However, Russell’s most interesting comment is the one saying the Lakers are an organization that will readily move on from a player. The franchise has long been known as a player-friendly organization, and it’s something James recently championed.
Whatever the truth, Russell seems to have found success and happiness, something we’ll never know if he would’ve or even could’ve achieved with the Lakers.