Earlier this summer, the Los Angeles Lakers made a bold and surprising move to trade point guard D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets along with Timofey Mozgov for Brook Lopez and a draft pick which turned out to be Kyle Kuzma.
Although Russell’s future in Los Angeles was up in the air with the Lakers expected to draft Lonzo Ball, many believe the two talented guards could co-exist in the backcourt in Los Angeles. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka thought differently as they wanted to go in a different direction by parting ways with the former No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft.
In a recent appearance on The Lowe Post podcast with ESPN’s Zach Lowe, head coach Luke Walton talked about the trade that sent Russell to Brooklyn and his thoughts on the 21-year-old guard:
“It was hard for multiple reasons,” Walton said of the Russell trade. “Just his talent alone, I mean he’s a second-year player who averaged like 16, six, and five this year. Then you get to know the players, and you work with them day in, day out, and you’re sitting in there watching film, and he’s with your assistant coaches, so the relationship and the bond builds. Part of why I love coaching so much is to see the growth in young players and to see them figure stuff out and you could see that happening with D’Angelo. He was what I thought was gonna be a big part of our future here and obviously that isn’t the case now […] I called him, I said ‘Look, I hope you end up being an All-Star, coming back and kicking our butts’ I really do, and I hope he gets it and it works out well for him in Brooklyn, but you gotta move on because now we got other guys and that’s just the way our business goes. I wish him the best and hope he has a long successful career.”
Despite Russell’s departure and how some believe it may have been a mistake, Ball’s talent is undeniable. The UCLA product’s style of play has completely changed the dynamic of the Lakers squad in NBA Summer League as he has led the team to multiple wins while making history as the only player to record two triple-doubles.
There’s no question Russell is a talented player, and he may very well have a bright future in Brooklyn, but Ball seems to fit the mold much better under Walton with the system currently thriving. Whether that carries over into the regular season, only time will tell as Ball is definitely going to have his ups and downs.
Fortunately for the Lakers, there seems to be a positive outlook on the immediate future with Ball at the helm as opposed to Russell who never really hit his stride in two seasons with the team.