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Luke Walton has been impressed with how well D’Angelo Russell is playing for the Nets

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Luke Walton has been as impressed as anyone with how well D’Angelo Russell has played this season.

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NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

D’Angelo Russell is probably well on his way to a Most Improved Player award this season, as he has helped lead his Brooklyn Nets to the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers — who traded him so as to make Byron Scott feel better about himself move Timofey Mozgov’s awful contract — are well on their way to being officially eliminated from postseason contention as soon as Friday night.

Luke Walton coached Russell a couple seasons ago and isn’t at all surprised by the leap the third-year point guard has taken this season (via Broderick Turner of the L.A. Times):

“No, you don’t want to say that a young player isn’t going to be able to do things,” Walton said Thursday after the Lakers’ practice. “I think D’Angelo was the No. 2 pick because he’s got an incredible skill set when it comes to playing this game. So, he’s definitely sharpened those skills.

“He looks like he’s really getting comfortable with the angles and whether it’s finishing at the rim or finding his big man roaming, feels like in watching him — like I talk about with Brandon [Ingram] a lot — the game is starting to slow down for him a little bit. It feels like the same thing is going on for D’Angelo right now.”

Just another friendly reminder that Russell a) didn’t have to be moved in order to sign LeBron James or b) was moved a full season before the Lakers really had to shed Mozgov’s contract, which has since been traded two other times for much less than a number two overall pick.

After the trade, the victory laps Magic Johnson in particular took to crap on the kid he just shipped out was especially gross to watch. Yes, Russell had some maturity issues. He was also 20-ish years old and the Lakers presented him with arguably the worst coach in NBA history and that weird farewell tour in Kobe Bryant’s last season.

Russell’s talent was always there — just as was the case with Julius Randle and Ivica Zubac — yet the Lakers gave up on each of those guys a year before they had to make such a decision. If things don’t work out this summer, the front office responsible for losing those assets for very little in return should pay pretty dearly for those legitimately harmful decisions to the present state and future of the organization.

Given how they’ve handled those situations, the Lakers probably deserve to have the final nail in the coffin driven home by Russell’s Nets, who were all too happy to take advantage of Magic’s mistake. They’ll get the chance to do so tonight.

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