It seems pretty miserable to be a Los Angeles Laker right now, with the team submitting a listless performance in a loss to Atlanta on Tuesday night, after weeks of trade rumors involving most of the roster, to fall below .500 heading into the All-Star break.
One player who is happy to be free of the angst in Los Angeles is D’Angelo Russell, former No. 2 overall pick by the Lakers in the 2015 draft who was shipped out 18 months ago in a salary dump to shed Timofey Mozgov’s contract, and then unceremoniously disrespected on his way out the door.
Now, Russell is experiencing the leap in his fourth season, but he expressed some sympathy for the Lakers who are still in the L.A. pressure cooker and constantly on the trading block, having been through that situation two years ago. Nevertheless, as he told Leo Sepkowitz of Bleacher Report, he is happy that he was traded so early in his career, giving him stability in Brooklyn and the opportunity to develop under a front office that has invested in him.
“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.”
Russell is in the midst of an All-Star season, helping propel the Brooklyn Nets to the sixth seed and a near-certain playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. He is averaging 20 points and 6.6 assists per game while shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc, proving Magic Johnson’s misguided remarks about his leadership increasingly incorrect with every passing day.
Russell will take the floor for Team Giannis in the 2019 All-Star Game Sunday in Charlotte. He was Antetokounmpo’s fifth reserve pick, ahead of other guards like Bradley Beal and Kyle Lowry.