While the Lakers haven’t been active for much of the free agency period of the off-season, their off-season as a whole will be remembered for dealing D’Angelo Russell.
Russell was traded alongside Timofey Mozgov for Brook Lopez and a draft pick, a move that shocked both Laker and NBA fans alike.
The trade has been met with much resistance from fans after seeing Russell develop for multiple seasons in the purple and gold.
Luke Walton was no different. In a recent episode of the Lowe Post with Zach Lowe of ESPN, Walton shared his thoughts on the trade.
“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. Part of why I love coaching so much is to see the growth in young players and to see them figure stuff out. You can see that happening with D’Angelo. He was what 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. Especially when you’re talking about young players and guys that you really invest a lot of time with and you get to know them off the court as well.
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. I called him, I said ‘Look, I hope you end being an All-Star and come back kicking our butts. I really do.’ 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.
For fans who were upset with the Russell trade, the comments made by Magic Johnson in the following days did not help matters. Johnson seemed to imply players did not want to play with Russell like they did with Lonzo Ball.
Walton, however, did not take Johnson’s comments in a way most fans did, which was as a slight to Russell.
“I don’t take it like that. People always ask me what it’s like working with Magic and Rob. I love working with Magic and Rob. I say it’s awesome. Now that’s not taking a shot at Jimmy and Mitch. To me, it’s the same idea. I’m complimenting who I’m with now. I’m not saying I didn’t like working with these guys or whatever it was.
So I think it gets tricky with that. People love playing with Lonzo. That’s not saying people didn’t like playing with D’Angelo. Lonzo plays a style of ball that is very unique in today’s NBA. As a player, I’d rather play with Lonzo, too, because he’s going to throw me the ball every single time. He doesn’t give a damn if he scores two points or 35 points. He just wants to play and make the right pass.”
No matter how the comments were taken or how fans may view the Russell trade, it’ll continue to be a polarizing move and one fans may never come to a conclusion on. With the move being made with the idea of creating cap space in 2018, a final conclusion on the trade is still in the distant future.
Regardless, it’s interesting to hear Walton speak so highly of Russell still, providing comments that have gone against some of the narratives written and spoken against Russell.