Lakers: Dissecting ESPN’s Unwarranted D’Angelo Russell Hate


Examining why the blatant disrespect toward Lakers’ point guard, D’Angelo Russell needs to be addressed

On Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Duke small forward Brandon Ingram with the second overall pick, a major step in the right direction for a team coming off of the worst season in franchise history.

Rightfully so, Ingram’s selection engendered much buzz, and discussions regarding the future of the franchise were initiated thanks to the selection of a player whose game many have compared to that of Kevin Durant.

The talking points appeared to be valid. Should the Lakers build around Ingram? Can he become a viable part of the Lakers’ young core? But the discussions soon took a turn for the worse, however, when point guard D’Angelo Russell’s name was brought up.

Immediately, television personalities Michael Wilbon and Jalen Rose brought up how the Lakers needed to trade Russell, citing his lack of maturity following his embarrassing video scandal involving small forward Nick Young back in March.

Former player Jay Williams even suggested that the Lakers draft Providence point guard, Kris Dunn instead of Ingram as a means to trade Russell prior to the draft.

On the other end of the spectrum, Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, who actually supported the team’s decision to draft Ingram, still managed to lambaste Russell in a piece for the LA Times.

"The celebratory mood was in contrast to the defensiveness that permeated the organization last June when the Lakers shrugged off the natural No. 2 pick  of Jahlil Okafor and instead reached for D’Angelo Russell. In some ways, they’re still reaching for Russell, trying to connect with him, and this pick of Ingram may lead them to eventually trade him for a stabilizing veteran if they feel a core of Ingram, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle is their future."

Before beginning to defend Russell, it should be noted that his infamous video scandal was indeed a monumental mistake whose significance cannot be downplayed. Thanks in part to Russell, Young’s relationship took a turn for the worse, and ultimately may have resulted in the forward’s split with rapper Iggy Azalea.

More from Lake Show Life

But using a past mistake to gauge Russell’s worth, and then correlating that mistake to his “poor play” on the court in order to ultimately propose a trade is nothing short of ludicrous.

Russell, in spite of being subjugated to former head coach Byron Scott‘s antiquated schemes, and having to take a back-seat to a clearly deteriorated Kobe Bryant, still managed to put up historic numbers in his rookie year.

Notwithstanding the fact that other lottery players on bad teams were given carte blanche control of their respective offenses (see: Devin Booker), Russell still managed to register himself in the statistical record books.

For one, Russell was the youngest player ever in NBA history to convert 130 three point field goals  – a marvelous feat when considering that his own coach discredited the value of a three pointer, proclaiming “I don’t believe it wins championships.”

Due to his well-rounded game, Russell also became the second teenager in NBA history to average 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per 36 minutes for a whole season. The other? LeBron James.

Indeed, that wasn’t the only list which saw Russell in in the same class as James. As mentioned by Shane Young of Today’s Fastbreak:

For those who claim that hand picked statistics make even the worst of players look somewhat decent, it must be considered that Russell’s impact on the court extended beyond the numbers.

When Russell was playing, there was genuine reason to watch the Lakers. He could shoot a three on one play and proceed drop a dime on the very next. He was the floor general. When he was not paying, the offense typically reverted to profound isolation play headed by his back-up, Lou Williams.

Likewise, his young teammates legitimately appear to enjoy play alongside him.

Despite his alleged tension with Young and Williams, the players the Lakers will ultimately build around seem to like playing with the young point guard. If the core of the team appreciates him, who cares about the rest?

If Clarkson and Randle were able to get over Russell’s video incident, what is there to be worried about? After all, most players with a functioning heart will eventually understand that Russell simply made a dumb mistake. In the day and age of social media, anything and everything will go viral if unchecked. It’s a valuable lesson that most will acknowledge to be a silly misjudgment.

If anything, the Lakers should trade Williams and Young if those players do indeed have a problem with Russell. After all, this isn’t the first time that Young’s name has been in the news for the wrong reasons this season, and Williams should’ve been in the trade market all along.

And when the topic of maturity ever arises, the double standard that Russell deals with should be addressed. How is he deemed to be a player whom the franchise cannot trust when fellow rookie Jahlil Okafor was caught on two separate occasions fist-fighting people on the street?

It’s easy to see that people are picking and choosing upon whom to allocate blame — in this case, Russell is the obvious target.

How different would the outcry be had Russell been the player who verbally engaged with fans instead of Okafor? It’s easy to see that people are picking and choosing upon whom to allocate blame – in this case, Russell is the obvious target.

With all of that being said, it is important to consider that D’Angelo Russell is far from an “untouchable” player.

Though his play was certainly impressive considering the extenuating circumstances that he had to endure, his performance was far from good enough to render him untouchable in trade deals like fellow rookie Karl Towns. At times he looked slow, and he struggled to produce efficiently despite being given a much larger role in the offense during the end of his rookie campaign.

If the team entertains a deal for Russell and an additional asset in return for an established star such as Jimmy Butler or DeMarcus Cousins, the Lakers would be foolish to at least not consider the offer. But trading Russell based on his “immaturity” or his poor play, as cited by national media sensationalists like the aforementioned Wilbon, is even more foolish.

D’Angelo Russell is not a perfect player, nor has he proven that he can be the cornerstone for a franchise, but his flaws alone do not render him a dispensable asset by any means.

Despite a rocky rookie season, Russell showed that he is an integral part of the Lakers’ young core, and should be treated as such — both by fans and the media.

Next: Lakers Rumors: LA Not On Kevin Durant's Radar

So it’s only right that we begin to put some respeck on his name.