On Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick, essentially anointing him as the team’s point guard of the future. President of basketball operations, Magic Johnson, went so far as to call him the new face of the franchise at his introductory press conference.
But just days before, the Lakers traded the former player who they believed was the point guard of the future in D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers dealt Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in the draft which turned out to be Kyle Kuzma.
Magic spoke about dealing Russell and while he thanked him for his time with the franchise, questioned his ability to lead a team, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN:
Magic Johnson on D’Angelo Russell: "We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader.” Full quote: pic.twitter.com/3FhPthOpN1
— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) June 23, 2017
This has long been the issue that many have pointed to with Russell. His talent on the floor is evident, but the intangibles have always been a question mark, and that outweighed his production on the court.
There were recent reports about Russell’s ability to handle criticism, and his maturity has long been questioned since the infamous Nick Young incident at the end of his rookie year.
That is no longer the worry of the Lakers as they have moved on and believed Ball is someone who will shine where Russell presumably came up short. There are a lot of expectations on the UCLA product, but he seems equipped to handle them.
For Russell, he will look to grow and embrace the next chapter of his career in Brooklyn.