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Russell sees Magic criticism as “an honor;” Walton says he hopes Russell “kicks our butt”

The 2017 ESPYS - Arrivals Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Some news about D’Angelo Russell and his exit from the Lakers. He now views Magic Johnson’s criticism as a compliment and Luke Walton told Zach Lowe it wasn’t easy letting him go.

After declining to comment on Johnson’s criticism of him following last month’s trade, Russell has decided to take a different tack. He’s accepting the best parts of the Laker great’s remarks and says he will take the criticism too.

"D'Angelo is an excellent player," Johnson said when the Lakers introduced their top draft pick, point guard Lonzo Ball. "He has the talent to be an All-Star. We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader. I needed somebody also that can make the other players better and also [somebody] that players want to play with."

“Magic is one of the greatest of all time,” Russell said at Tuesday’s Gatorade Athlete of the Year Awards in L.A.. “For him to say something like that, for me, is still an honor. Whatever criticism he has for me, I’m going to take it and make the best of it. I don’t look at it as a negative.”

Russell did spend most of his interview talking about the future, with the Nets.

“Being in the situation that Brooklyn has offered me, I’m excited,” said Russell who has said he’d expects to be the Nets leader. He’s eager to get started and says his teammates have welcomed him.

“It’s a major learning curve, especially when you go to a new situation,” he said. “I’ve never been traded before, so it’s a good opportunity for me to make the best of it. You never know what the future holds.”

He also explained why he’s shown up some nights (and early mornings) at HSS Training Center to put up shots.

“It was more that I was up and couldn’t sleep,” he said about his recent early-morning workouts. “The time difference had my sleep schedule thrown off. I’m going to polish my game as much as I can when I get the opportunity.”

Meanwhile on the Zach Lowe podcast, Luke Walton said he and Russell talked after the trade.

“I said 'Look, I hope you end being an All-Star and come back kicking our butts. I really do.'“ Walton said. “I hope he gets it and it works out for him well, but you have to move on because now we got other guys and it's just the way our business goes. I wish him the best and hope that he has a long, successful career. It's always tough when you make trades like that.”

Walton also admitted losing Russell wasn’t easy.

"It was hard for multiple reasons. Just his talent alone, he's a second-year player and he averaged like 16-6-5 this year. Then you get to know the players and you work with them day in and day out and you're sitting in there watching film and he's with your assistant coaches, so the relationship and the bold builds,” Walton told Lowe. “Part of why I love coaching so much is to see the growth in young players and to see them figure stuff out.”

Walton said Russell was starting the process of figuring stuff out.

“I thought was going to be a big part of our future here. Obviously, that isn't the case now, but trades are always tough,” Walton said. “But at the same, you're around this game long enough, you realize there's a huge business side to it and you get used to it.”

The other piece in the Draft Night trade, Timofey Mozgov, told Izvestia, the Russian newspaper, that Walton told him the trade was not the coach’s idea.

“Immediately after the exchange I talked to Walton on the phone, and when I came back from New York, we had lunch together and communicated well,” Mozgov told the Izvestia reporter, Timur Ganeev. “I have a good relationship with him. He said that trading me was not his choice. The coach wanted to see me on the team again next year.”