The first time D’Angelo Russell left the Lakers, it wasn’t his choice, as he was shipped out in a trade to salary dump Timofey Mozgov and clear the way for Lonzo Ball in the backcourt. Five years later, faced with his own decision in NBA free agency, he’s decided to remain with the team that drafted him.
According to his agents, Russell is re-signing with the Lakers on a two-year, $37 million deal:
Free agent G D’Angelo Russell has agreed on a two-year, $37 million contract to stay with the Los Angeles Lakers, co-heads of @CAA_Basketball Austin Brown and Aaron Mintz along with Antonio Russell tell ESPN. Deal has player option. Lakers secure their starting point guard. pic.twitter.com/ScrZHD7Jio— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 1, 2023
According to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times, the second year is a player option. This leaves the Lakers with a bit of wiggle room to still bring back Malik Beasley at a salary above the minimum if they choose to do so:
The Lakers are now $14.1M below the tax and $21M below the hard cap with 11 players.— Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) July 1, 2023
The projected salaries for Austin Reaves ($12.4M) and Maxwell Lewis ($1.1M) would put the Lakers right under the tax and $9M below the hard cap with 13 players.https://t.co/82ixkNVi5Q https://t.co/wPLkTUFAfm
Russell returning on a team-friendly deal that was still above his market has long been considered the likeliest outcome here, and now he will reinforce the Lakers’ backcourt and look to redeem his reputation after a disappointing end to his playoff run.
It’s possible this contract is just salary ballast for a trade to acquire a 16-game player later while keeping Russell’s cap slot alive, but for now, keeping Russell is a marriage of convenience that will help the Lakers get through the grind of an 82-game season with a player who made them much better when he played after his acquisition, and whose scoring and playmaking ability was a proven regular season asset.
Even after his Western Conference Finals implosion, the dearth of better options in addition to those factors are reasons to keep him around.
Can Russell ever be more than that? His career thus far doesn’t really indicate it, but at age 27, he still has a chance to prove he can develop the winning habits necessary to secure one more long-term deal in the league when this contract expires, wherever that may be. And for the Lakers, they have all the motivation in the world to help him get there — either so he can help them win a title, or to showcase him ahead of a trade for someone who can.
This breaking news story may be updated with more information and analysis as it continues to develop. For all the latest on NBA free agency, check out our Silver Screen and Roll Lakers free agency rumors tracker.