clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Magic Johnson throws D’Angelo Russell under the bus

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers-Press Conference Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

When the NBA schedule comes out in about a month, the first dates we’ll be checking will be the two games the Nets play against the Lakers. Could be fun.

It seems D’Angelo Russell, at least according to the Lakers new management, was the problem in Los Angeles. On Friday, Magic Johnson, the Lakers president of basketball operations, slammed Russell as the team welcomed Lonzo Ball, his pick in Thursday’s draft.

"We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader. I needed somebody also who can make the other players better and also [somebody] that players want to play with.”

That’s fairly extraordinary, a team executive suggesting players don’t like their teammate.

As Silver Screen and Roll, our SB Nation counterpart in LA-LA Land, wrote...

The first two sentences of Johnson’s comments read like the opener of a press release, before flipping into a swift kick of Russell on the way out the door, a bad look for an executive.

In addition to being fairly classless, it’s also not hard to imagine Russell’s agent, Aaron Mintz (who also represents Paul George and Julius Randle) being less than thrilled about comments like this, which obviously isn’t ideal when the Lakers are potentially on the verge of negotiating two contracts with him.

Aside from the practical problem of dealing with Mintz, Johnson should also just be better than this. Was Russell difficult to deal with? Sure. Does that make it a good look for a team executive to unceremoniously ship him across the country and then trash him publicly while anonymous sources continue to crap on him through leaks to the media? No. No it does not.

It also undercut comments that Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, a former agent himself, made to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN on Thursday night during the network’s Draft coverage. Pelinka said the trade had little to do with Russell, and lots to do with what they were getting back, “an All-Star caliber 5” in Brook Lopez; “amazing salary cap relief” with the removal of Timofey Mozgov’s three -year, $48 million albatross; and the 27th pick in the draft which gave the Lakers three first round picks.

Of Russell, Pelinka said simply ...

“Look, I think D’Angelo is a special player and definitely don’t want to attach the name ‘expendable’ next to him because he’s an extraordinary talent. We just looked at that trade as doing three things that were positive for us.”

Johnson and Pelinka were brought in to clear up the mess left by Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, who were mainly responsible for what Silver Screen and Roll described as “the shooting-starved, talent-bereft rosters” Russell had to work with.

Moreover, as Johnson was trashing Russell, Ivan Zubac, the Lakers promising center, wished his teammate well in an Instagram post...

Gonna miss playing with you bro... good luck in Brooklyn, do your thing

A post shared by Ivica Zubac (@ivicazubac) on

It was the second high profile farewell Russell received from a teammate. Larry Nance paid tribute to Russell’s “icy veins” in a tweet.

So maybe Lakers players didn’t hate him so much after all. Awkward.

It will all be grist for the media mill on Monday morning when Russell meets the New York press in Brooklyn, starting at 10:30 a.m. No word yet on where it will be carried live, but guarantee that it will.