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NETS TRADE LOPEZ, 27TH PICK FOR RUSSELL, MOZGOV

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Brooklyn Nets v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Brook Lopez, the longest serving Net and the last Net who played in New Jersey, has been traded to the Lakers along with the Nets 27th pick. In return, the Nets get D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov.

Adrian Wojnarowski reported the news in a series of tweets.

NetsDaily confirmed the deal. It has been in the works for the past several days and came together late Tuesday afternoon after the Nets included the pick ... and talks between the Lakers and Pacers over Paul George began to intensify. George has said he wants to play in Los Angeles.

The key for the Nets is Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 Draft out of Ohio State. The Nets are trying to stock their roster with young athletic stars as they try to recover from the disastrous consequences of their 2013 Draft Day trade. That was the deal where the Nets sent the Celtics three first round picks and a pick swap to Boston for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry.

A 6’5” 21-year-old combo guard, Russell averaged 15.6 points and 4.8 assists this season while shooting 35 percent from three. On March 19, he scored a career-high 40 points in a 125–120 loss to Cleveland. The Nets haven’t had a single game 40 point scorer since Bojan Bogdanovic put up 44 two years ago. Unless the Nets draft someone younger Thursday, Russell will be the team’s youngest player.

Mozgov, like Nets ownership, is Russian and the Nets believe he is more than serviceable as a center. He is 31, two years older than Lopez. He averaged 7.4 points and 4.9 points in 20 minutes per game. He missed 28 games, however. The Lakers needed to move his remaining $54 million over three years so they can take on George’s contract

As David Aldridge and Woj tweeted.

Of course, it means that Lopez, the highest scorer in team history, is leaving the franchise after nine years, his dream of playing out his career with one team, one organization, finally ended. He survived multiple trade deadline deals and countless rumors and now will head back to his southern California roots.

By dumping Lopez now, the Nets will not have to decide next summer whether to give him a long-term contract starting at near $30 million. Lopez, of course, has had long term issues with his right foot, undergoing several surgeries.

In terms of cap space, the Nets will save $1.8 million this coming year, but take on an additional $32.7 million in 2018-19 and 2019-20 unless they decide to stretch Mozgov’s contract.

Woj hinted that something was coming on Monday in a podcast, as we noted...

Talking about the Lakers need, either now or next year, to dump salaries, Woj offered the following in a podcast on “The Vertical” podcast (Starting at about the 12 minute mark.)

“So, hypothetically, Brooklyn says, ‘we’ll take on (Timofey) Mozgov or we’ll take on (Luol) Deng but you’re sending us D’Angelo Russell or you’re sending us your first round pick.’

“There is no other way the Lakers are getting Deng or Mozgov off the cap,” he added, noting that without that, L.A. won’t have enough to take on Paul George’s contract in a trade this summer or LeBron James in free agency next.

Said one source, “Woj wasn’t speculating. He was working.”

The Lakers organization and their fans have had questions about Russell’s maturity and consistency over his two-year stay in Los Angeles.

Kevin Ding, writing for Bleacher Report last week, noted that Russell as well as Julius Randle, another young star, had disappointed Luke Walton this season.

Lakers head coach Luke Walton entered the season asking Russell to be less of a know-it-all and more of a leader for the group, while he hoped Randle would emulate Draymond Green in using every perceived slight as motivation. Though both players improved their games, neither advanced as far as Walton had hoped. Russell was inconsistent with his professionalism, and Randle often lost messages given to him if they were delivered harshly.

Still, Russell has put up more than respectable numbers in his first two years (of a guaranteed four). When he was drafted after only Karl-Anthony Towns, some saw him as a James Harden type, blessed with multiple skills and great court vision.

Can he play with Jeremy Lin, who has a player option next July? Lin, of course, played with Harden at Houston and Kemba Walker at Charlotte.

Adi Joseph of USA Today thinks the two can work well together.

On the other hand, the Nets long term plan for Caris LeVert may very well be at the 2. The Nets are stocked with a variety of young guards and wings, Spencer Dinwiddie, Isaiah Whitehead, Sean Kilpatrick, Archie Goodwin, K.J. McDaniels as well as Lin, LeVert and now Russell. Expect one or two of them to be released or moved this week.

The trade leaves a gaping hole at center. Other than Mozgov, the Nets have only one player, Justin Hamilton, taller than 6’10”. That almost certainly assures that Brooklyn will go big in the draft, perhaps 7’3” Anzejs Pasecniks of Latvia or 7’0” Isaiah Hartenstein of Germany. The Nets also have interest in Harry Giles, 6’11” out of Duke but his long history of knee issues makes him a risky proposition

Then, there’s the leadership gap left by Lopez’s departure. On a young team last year, Lopez was the unquestioned leader, particularly after Lin went down with a hamstring issue. Lin himself will play a role. The Lakers hoped that Russell would eventually turn into a leader but instead lamented his immaturity.

Most famously, in his rookie year, he recorded a video of teammate Nick Young bragging about a sexual conquests ... while engaged to pop star Iggy Azalea.

The video somehow got out. Once it did, his teammates shut Russell out by making him sit alone at breakfast, among other things. Anonymous Lakers officials trashed Russell in the media.

The Nets’ Russian ownership hopes their countryman Mozgov can rise to the occasion. Twice before they invested in Russian players, in 2013 signing Andrei Kirilenko and a year later, adding Sergei Karasev in a trade. Both turned out to be major disappointments. Kirilenko arrived out of shape in the fall of 2013 and spent much of the season on the bench. He was later traded to Philadelphia. Karasev never was in shape and got involved in an embarrassing late night incident in Miami when he was spotted with two strippers outside the team hotel on the morning before a game. He was not re-signed.

The Nets pursuit of Milos Teodosic, the European point guard, is over. In fact, it never got started. Executives don’t believe he wants to leave CSKA Moscow for the NBA and now with Russell entering the picture, there’s no need —or room— for him. Similarly, the Nets had wanted to move up in Thursday night’s Draft to grab Louisville’s Donavan Mitchell. That idea is now basically dead. The Nets dealt the 27th pick and Mitchell would have played the same role Russell will now play.