D'Angelo Russell has become toxic with the Lakers.
His teammates are reportedly isolating him, and his coach says he won’t intervene. What Russell initially seemed to think was a harmless and funny video of Nick Young has turned into a fiasco.
What will the Lakers do?
Could they actually trade the promising rookie, who was the No. 2 overall pick just last year?
Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:
The Lakers are not happy that Russell has cast the franchise in this light now—and there are those in the organization fearful that he has made himself another hurdle to be overcome in the Lakers’ effort to add much-needed proven free-agent talent. But the club is not about to give up on him over this: a foolish, ill-conceived undertaking that was at least not malicious in intent.
The Lakers believe in Russell’s talent and hope he learns a lesson the hard way here about needing to be more professional.
This was always the likely course for the Lakers. Russell is too valuable just to dump, and if the Lakers dealt him this offseason, they’d be selling low. He has flashed star potential in the second half of the season, and he’s just 20. In time, the backlash over the Young video should blow over.
But this is still not an easy course for the Lakers.
Many of the teammates who are shunning Russell won’t return next season. The Lakers could even stretch Young, who has two more seasons left on his contract, if they believe it’d help chemistry. Roster churn will help Russell get past this.
But this isn’t a problem between just Russell and Young. It isn’t a problem between just Russell and his current teammates. Every player in the NBA knows what Russell did, and a large majority – if not all – resents him for it.
This could cost the Lakers free agents, and it could make Russell a pariah for the rest of his career – which is why the Lakers shouldn’t trade him. He faces similar problems wherever he goes, which likely lowers his trade value below the point a deal makes sense.
The Lakers have little choice but to bank on a few things working in Russell’s favor:
1. Time. It heals all wounds.
2. Roster turnover. New teammates might be suspicious of Russell, but if they didn’t feel burned as directly, they’ll likely be more open to accepting him.
3. Russell playing well and unselfishly. It’s easier to forgive a point guard who gets his teammates good shots and helps them win.
Russell has made it more difficult for the Lakers’ to build around him. But at this point, what else are they going to do?