The Los Angeles Lakers kickstarted the team’s first multi-game road trip of the season on Saturday as the team took on the Orlando Magic. This was the second time in less than a week that the two teams played as the Lakers defeated Orlando back in Los Angeles on Monday.
The second matchup against this young Magic team did not go the Lakers’ way. Orlando jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter and never really looked back, comfortably cruising to a 120-101 win over the Lake Show.
There were several bad takeaways from this game but none were worse than the play of D’Angelo Russell. Russell turned in his worst game of the season thus far and looked like the same player who failed to show up in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets.
Every player in the NBA is going to have bad games and most of the time they can be chalked up as only that: bad outings. However, in Russell’s case, this bad showing was a reminder to fans of what is eventually going to come.
D’Angelo Russell reminds Lakers fans that he is bound to be traded
The writing has been on the wall for the Lake Show to trade Russell later in the season since the summer. Russell waived his implied no-trade clause in his two-year deal with the Lakers and the entire contract itself was all but confirming that he would be dealt.
A player option in the second season with a salary that probably was not as big as Russell wanted but was big enough to package in a deal for another player? Russell knew what he was agreeing to when he agreed to this contract and likely accepted that reality knowing that he might not get more on the open market after the Western Conference Finals.
In theory, a good Lakers team would elevate his value in the first half of the season, prompting other teams to actually be interested in him at the deadline. Then, Russell would have that player option in his back pocket to carry over to the summer to maximize his earnings.
And for the most part, Russell has played well. This is his first real stinker of the season. But it is still a reminder of why the Lakers have to trade him in the first place. These bad games happen far too frequently, especially when the lights are the brightest.
Some guys, regardless of how talented they are, simply are not playoff performers. It takes a certain style of play and buy-in to win in the playoffs and Russell has proven that his over-confidence on offense (and lack of buy-in on defense or in rebounding) results in negative play in the playoffs.
After all, there is a reason why Russell has bounced around from team to team and why each of his teams was just fine letting him go. That isn’t merely a coincidence and Russell brought Lakers fans back down to that reality on Saturday.