The Los Angeles Lakers’ decision to use D’Angelo Russell as a sweetener in order to dump the remainder of Timofey Mozgov’s deal on the Brooklyn Nets was the most surprising and controversial move of the team’s offseason.
It was a fitting end to the Lakers’ career of one of the most polarizing players the team has had in quite some time, with the move’s detractors crying out about bad process and giving up on a young player too early and its supporters trumpeting cap space, dreams of LeBron James and Paul George and Russell’s lack of Snapchat etiquette.
If Russell finds his stride in Brooklyn and lives up to the promise of being a No. 2 pick while the Lakers whiff in free agency, the team’s decision to trade him will be looked back upon negatively. If he continues to only show sporadic flashes of promise and/or the Lakers sign James and George next summer, then it’s safe to say no one in Lakerland will be thinking about the move any time soon other than to think “man, we only had to give up DLo to get LeBron AND PG?? Magic is a GENIUS!”
Whatever the case may be, during an appearance on WFAN in Brooklyn with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on WFAN Thursday Russell made it sound like he was ready for a new start (via Nets Daily):
First reaction to the trade:
“I was excited. I was excited to get a new opportunity to start over, but it definitely caught me off guard. You see guys get traded you never think it would have to be you until it does. New step for me.”
Even while admitting he was caught by surprise when he was traded, Russell’s admission to being “excited” to leave might be seen as a shot at his former team, but he also went to lengths to make it seem like he has no ill will towards the franchise that drafted him:
Think you got a fair deal with Lakers?
“It’s business, man. That’s how I got to look at it. A lot of things happen in this league and you don’t agree with it or however you may feel about it and at the end of the day realize it’s business.”
Biggest thing learned in LA:
“That was my first stop. I got drafted to LA. All I knew was LA. I didn’t really get to see the ‘other side’ – the East coast and stuff like that. So just being that far away from home helped me realize that things were different, so you got to do things different. It was a heck of an experience for me. It ended the way it ended so I can’t really complain.”
Bothered by Magic Johnson’s comments?
“I mean, it is what it is. They’re the Lakers, we’re the Nets. There is nothing we can control over there and there is nothing they can control over here. I don’t really like looking back and speaking on that. There’s nothing to really bring about.”
Extra juice playing against the Lakers?
“Oh I got extra juice against everybody I play this year, honestly. This sounds clichéd but it’s the truth.”
Russell would only feed into the image some had of him as immature if he blasted the Lakers on the way out, so it’s hardly surprising he opted to take the high road here (as he has all summer).
Also, on a Nets team mostly bereft of notable young talent, Russell will get as good a shot as he’ll ever have to prove he’s the franchise-cornerstone some still think he can be in Brooklyn, which would excite any player and is totally understandable. We’ll see if the excitement is warranted as his career moves along, but right now it seems like both Russell and the Lakers have reasons to be excited about the road they’re headed down.