As if things in LakerLand could get much worse, this whole D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young situation has really put a bow on how this season has been for Los Angeles. For those that don’t know, Russell filmed Young saying some regrettable things about his relationships with other women not named Iggy Azalea, his fiancé. Somehow this video got leaked into the public, and it’s caused a stir in the sports world, not just in basketball. NFL Live went in-depth on this and compared what an NFL locker room would be like if a situation happened in their league.
This was supposed to be a nice last month for the Lakers, celebrating the illustrious career of Kobe Bryant, but instead, this fiasco has taken over as the primary topic of discussion. Players and coaches reportedly isolated Russell in practice, but those are the least of Russell’s worries.
Is isolating Russell the best way to go about this? Maybe, but the Lakers don’t really have a strong locker room presence to begin with, outside of Brandon Bass. Kobe Bryant certainly doesn’t care about this situation, he has less than 10 games left in his career, and this won’t shatter his legacy at all. He’s been in rifts before, most notably Shaquille O’Neal, but this isn’t his problem really.
Lou Williams isn’t a strong candidate, as he’s been rumored to have multiple girlfriends… at the same time… and the girls didn’t care. Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, has a strange habit of throwing elbows into people’s heads and pantsing Paul Pierce (sorry for the horrible quality, gotta love technology in the mid 2000s). He was also the main component of the Malice at the Palace, where he ran into the stands and beat someone up like he was Mike Milbury.
Also, speaking of the brawl, ESPN had Stephen Jackson on to talk about the morality of the situation which is ironic as he was another primary cause of the Malice at the Palace.
Listen, Nick Young may not be the most upstanding citizen in the world, and it’s not right what he did behind Iggy’s back, but come on D’Angelo, you have to know better than that. The defense that “he’s just a rookie” is completely irrelevant and wrong in this situation. He’s 20 years old and he should know that whatever he films or whatever can get out into the public eye. He grew up in the technology era, he’s not some grandparent learning how to FaceTime. This isn’t a basketball morality problem, this is a human morality problem.
Russell last lost all credibility and trust in an NBA locker room. He could go on to win five MVP’s and no one will trust him or even like him because of this situation. I don’t know why he was asking Swaggy P about his extra-engagement affairs, but that’s none of his business in the first place. Again, it’s not morally right what Young did, but there’s no reason to even discuss this in the locker room.
Russell held a press conference, apologized to his teammates, and more specifically Young. Russell went on to he was “sick” over what the situation has become, as he should be. His apology did seem sincere, but will they be accepted? Probably not. From the interview, it seemed as though him and Young were pretty close, with Russell saying they spent time together in the locker room joking and laughing together (clips of interview here).
Whatever bond he had with Young is now severed, with no chance of ever coexisting in the same locker room again. This brings up the question, should the Lakers move D’Angelo or Nick Young?
This might be a bigger debate than people think. Young is having by far his worst statistical season of his career. He’s averaging lows in points, field goal percentage and three point percentage. And with a scorers mentality and not really providing anything other than scoring ability, he could be released. The Lakers are also overpaying for Young. Following this year, Young will have two years left on his four year 21 million dollar deal. His salary will hover around 5.5 million, and for someone who only gets 20 minutes per game, that’s way too much.
Russell on the other hand, is a rookie with four years left of team control left, assuming they pick up his option following next year. Russell is the brightest piece of a brighter future in LA. He seemed to just be turning a corner in his development following a slow start for the purple and gold. The problem isn’t whether people would take Russell, but rather how much they would be willing to give up. The 76ers and Celtics have already expressed small amounts of interest in the Ohio State product.
Russell has an immense amount of potential, and if the Lakers were to trade him, they would likely get a solid haul, but nothing compared to his value before this debacle. Also there’s the team option that may or not be picked up now. And if it isn’t, nobody would be willing to pay top dollar for a locker room poison. Russell probably just cost himself millions, maybe tens of millions of dollars over one stupid decision.
This season has been lost since the opening tip-off back in October, and the Lakers have only 16 wins to their credit. The first game after this story got out, the Lakers got embarrassed by 48 against the Utah Jazz, which only made the situation worse. What D’Angelo Russell did is in under no circumstances right or justifiable, and the consequences may be too severe for him to overcome.
Cover Photo via LA Times