When the Los Angeles Lakers were first linked to D’Angelo Russell earlier this week, it seemed like a pipe dream; or maybe even an attempt at a leverage play by his agent, Aaron Mintz of CAA Sports. However, as time has passed, the possibility of Russell reuniting with his former team has only grown stronger.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Lakers’ interest in the 23-year-old All-Star is serious, and some of it has to do with his history with the team:
The Lakers have serious interest in Nets restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell, L.A.’s former No. 2 overall pick and former starting point guard, league sources said. The Lakers’ interest in Russell is real, and has been described as something that the organization has had partly due to their familiarity with Russell. After all, they traded Russell to the Nets in 2017 before drafting Lonzo Ball. Russell has blossomed into an All-Star, a top free agent, and the Lakers would pursue him by utilizing part of the expected $24-28 million in salary cap space. His restricted status will make a potential signing interesting, considering the Nets have the right to match.
Ironically, his history with the team could also be why Russell ultimately decides not to sign with the Lakers in free agency.
As if being traded just two years into his career wasn’t enough reason for him to hold a grudge against the Lakers, the team’s former president of basketball operations, Magic Johnson, questioned Russell’s ability as a leader after the trade. While Johnson no longer holds an official role with the organization, almost everyone he worked with when Russell was traded does.
If Russell is willing to let bygones be bygones and sign with the Lakers this summer, that’s great news for them. If he decides not to, they have no one to blame but themselves.