Fresh off of tying the largest loss in franchise history, the Los Angeles Lakers found themselves at the center of negative headlines again on Tuesday night, this time for something that took place off the court. According to a report from Baxter Holmes, Ramona Shelburne, and Marc Stein of ESPN, D'Angelo Russell is being "isolated" by his teammates after the recent leak of a video in which Nick Young appeared to admit to cheating on his fiancee, Australian rapper Iggy Azalea. Russell appears to have filmed the video, although it has not yet been reported how it became public.
According to the report, the leak has "led to a tangible strain between Russell and some teammates," with anecdotal examples given of Russell being forced to sit by himself during a recent team meeting and Lou Williams moving away when Russell sat next to him. The whole thing is worth reading before continuing.
Are you back? Okay, this is a bizarre situation, but let's look at all of it.
If Russell did film the video, and it appears that he did, that was an immature decision. He only just turned 20 a little over a month ago, and this isn't an excuse for his behavior, but everyone that age makes dumb decisions. He will hopefully learn from it, and this wouldn't appear to be the type of character flaw that would make the team cut ties with him.
Do his teammates trust him less after this? It would appear so, and that's justified. But while the details of the report are salacious and make the locker room sound more like a high school cafeteria than the workplace of millionaires, this does not seem like the type of thing that is going to cause a long-term problem for Russell or the team.
Young is obviously the teammate with the biggest grievance here, but if he and Russell simply can't get along moving forward, it's not like the Lakers weren't already doing everything short of putting up a Craigslist ad to move him and the remaining two-years and $11 million remaining on his contract anyway.
(And as an aside, the real victim in this leak is not Young anyway. It's Azalea, who apparently had to find out her fiancee was cheating on her via a blurry cell phone video. Regardless of what you think of her or her work, that sucks.)
As for the rest of Russell's teammates, this has been a trying season and emotions are likely running high. Given some space from each other this offseason, if Russell is apologetic about his behavior, it's hard to see this being the type of thing the rest of his teammates can't get past. The bottom line is that Russell is still basically a kid who would only be finishing up his sophomore year of college if he weren't a basketball player. Everyone makes decisions they regret at that age. It will be how he responds to it that defines how much of an issue this will be in his career moving forward.
This whole situation is a mess, but with eight games remaining in the worst season in Lakers history, it's a mess worth keeping an eye on. Just probably not one worth recording.
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