As Kobe Bryant’s last weeks in the NBA came to a close, the spotlight shifted from honoring Bryant’s legendary career as a Los Angeles Laker to a scandal centered around teammate D’Angelo Russell.
Tensions were sparked on March 27, when a video recorded by Russell was leaked to the public that showed teammate Nick Young bragging about cheating on his fiancée Iggy Azalea. The scandal quickly tarnished Russell’s reputation as it resulted in him being ignored by teammates, publicly shamed by the media and even being booed by fans at home.
What Russell did by recording the conversation with Young was wrong, but the team’s decision to ostracize the rookie point guard was also a poor choice that could mean the team’s demise.
California Lutheran University junior Brooks White has been a fan of the Lakers for as long as he can remember and believes that shunning Russell is uncalled for.
“I think it’s an interesting dynamic, you do have to be fair to Nick Young because he’s been there longer than D’Angelo has. I don’t think it was D’Angelo’s fault because he’s a young guy and I don’t think he intended it to get out there,” White said. “Shunning is not the right solution, I think that has really affected him personally and the relationships with his teammates.”
Having strained relationships with teammates is not only a problem in the locker room, but those issues also translate to the basketball court by throwing off team chemistry.
Sophomore Sawyer Weddle is a member of the Cal Lutheran men’s basketball team and he said he believes team chemistry is a key component of the game.
“Team chemistry is very important, it’s passing to guys who are open and can make a shot, knowing where your teammates are and really just being willing and able to make all the right decisions,” Weddle said.
Without chemistry a team is unable to be in rhythm with one another and be successful, and shunning the starting point guard off the court is a slippery slope that can only lead to issues on the court.
Russell’s problems did not end with his teammates. Three days after the video was released, the Lakers played the Miami Heat in Los Angeles and as the Lakers’ starting lineup was announced it was made clear that the fans were also upset as Russell was greeted with jeers. This circumstance sounds like any athlete’s nightmare, but Russell pushed through it and silenced the haters, scoring 16 points and helping to guide the team to an overtime victory.
On top of the successful performance on the court, Russell was also able to earn some respect back by answering questions in a press conference with sincerity.
“I feel as sick as possible,” Russell said in the press conference. “Only time can make this really go away. If I’ve lost anybody’s trust, I’m gonna work my tail off to get it back.”
Russell’s persevering performance on the court and apologetic words may be a start, but do they indicate where he is going as a player or where the Lakers are headed? According to Colin Cowherd, host of the radio show The Herd, Russell’s actions through this adversity are a good sign.
“[This was] a great indication of what you’ll get with D’Angelo Russell in crisis…after being booed, Kobe rolling his eyes at him, he carried the team in OT, I’m going with that guy,” Cowherd said on his show. “In crisis, 19-year-old guy, in LA, LA media, national media, everybody talking about him…answered every question and delivered in the stretch…verbally, emotionally and physically.”
Through it all Russell has handled the situation really well and can only hope that he will be able to make amends with his team. Looking forward he has a promising career ahead of him, and if the organization manages to keep him there he may just become the franchise player fans are waiting for to be the next king of Los Angeles.
Published April 20th, 2016