Much has been made of the Los Angeles Lakers decision to trade D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets in a salary dump of Timofey Mozgov’s contract. It’s clear that at the time, Russell had some baggage as someone management saw as immature. It’s also clear that they likely gave up on him too early as the guard is now thriving in Brooklyn, becoming an All-Star in just his fourth year in the league.
Russell, for his part, seems thankful for how his career has shaped up. In a feature written by Bleacher Report’s Leo Sepkowitz, the burgeoning star says that the trade and being free of the drama in LA is what has helped him reached a new level of success this season:
Meanwhile, an even bigger story is unfolding in Los Angeles, Russell’s old home. In recent weeks, it’s become clear that the Lakers are willing to trade any and all of their young players to New Orleans for Anthony Davis. Endless speculation—and torment for the youngsters like Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma—will culminate one way or another in just a few hours at the deadline’s buzzer. Russell was once part of the Lakers’ young core; today, he seems fortunate not to be.
“I can’t imagine what they’re trying to block out,” Russell says. Later, he adds: “If [the Lakers] didn’t let me go then, they were gonna let me go now, and I’d be going through what they’re going through. Best thing that happened in my career.”
While Russell has moved on from the trade, he is still holding on to a chip on his shoulder from how it occurred, especially due to Magic Johnson’s comments about his leadership after he was traded:
Russell strives for the admiration of his peers. Back when he was traded by Los Angeles—and “kicked on the way out,” in his words—he took solace in the feeling that players around the league appreciated him, even if Lakers management did not.
“When the league respects you and then you have a guy like Magic coming out to say something like that, it’s like, I don’t care, I’m not playing against him,” he says. “I’m playing against my peers, and if my peers respect me, that’s all I can ask for.”
Johnson’s comments are clearly something that has stuck with D’Angelo Russell and to his credit, he has improved his leadership and consistency since going to Brooklyn as he has gotten older (shocker, I know). Russell is now thriving in Brooklyn with an All-Star appearance and postseason berth on the docket.