After the Nick Young video leak that made headlines all over the country this week, Los Angeles Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell is trying his best to move forward and regain the trust of his teammates. Russell apologized profusely in a media session before Wednesday’s overtime win against the Miami Heat, as well as privately with his teammates, but seemed back to his normal self by Friday’s practice.
Russell said he’s already “getting over” the incident, but he can’t force a friendship with the person he hurt the most, teammate Nick Young.
“It’s kind of at this point where you need your space,” Russell explained Friday. “You can’t force peace. If it’s not there you can’t force it, you’ve got to let the time heal it.”
The 20-year-old rookie acknowledged that a person has to have “thick skin” to survive in Los Angeles. Since Russell was drafted with the No. 2 draft pick, “poise” has been the most common adjective used to describe the young guard. One could argue that Russell has continued to show poise through adversity this week, keeping his composure through what has become quite a media circus. But, whether this incident has changed or humbled him, Russell would have to disagree.
“I’m the same guy forever, having confidence, speak my mind, same guy,” Russell responded when asked if this situation has humbled him. “I don’t feel like anything could change that.”
Jordan Clarkson, who is close with both Russell and Young, admitted the “elephant in the room” was definitely felt in the locker room this week. At the same time, Clarkson felt Russell handled the situation as best as he could.
“We felt it,” Clarkson said of the tension. “But, D’Angelo handled it the right way, looked us all in the eyes as men, and apologized.”
Clarkson voiced confidence that Russell will be able to salvage the trust of his teammates, recognizing that everyone makes mistakes. Though reports have suggested that Russell has been isolated since the incident, Clarkson feels that there is an opportunity to bring the team closer.
“I feel like it’s kind of brought us closer a little bit, trying to stay strong for each other.”
Julius Randle also acknowledged the “awkwardness” of the situation but doesn’t expect it to affect how they play as a unit on the court. Randle even joked that his getting fined $15,000 for his “obscene gesture” after he nailed the game-winning shot in overtime took some of the attention away from the drama.
Head coach Byron Scott conceded that this will take time to fade away, but he has full confidence that his rookie has already started the process of doing whatever it takes to build back up that trust of his teammates. Both Russell and Young practiced today, which made for an extra competitive practice.
“They (Russell and Young) were on opposite teams,” Scott said of Friday’s practice. “So, everybody was kind of going at each other, which is good and that’s what we want in practice anyway, that competitive nature of just playing against each other,” Clarkson said.
Of course, Russell and Young are both under contract for next season, which raises the question of whether they can coexist.
“I think at the end of the day, we’re all grown men in here and people make mistakes. Now will they ever be buddy buddies again? I don’t know,” Scott said. “But, they do have to coexist while they’re both here and I think they can.”
With approximately two weeks and seven more games left in the schedule, we’ll see how this situation continues to play out.