IT’S STILL PERSONAL “Magic kicked me in my ass on the way out. I didn’t understand that”

IT’S STILL PERSONAL “Magic kicked me in my ass on the way out. I didn’t understand that”

It would be hard to pick the most bizarre part of Magic‘s front office tenure with the Lakers. You may go with quitting in an impromptu media session, contradicting himself about his level of commitment, or assembling a roster with zero shooting. Trading a 20-year-old point guard for lack of leadership should be in consideration as well. 

I’m far from a D’Angelo Rusell fan, but the way Magic conducted that trade was just bad. To remind you, the Lakers traded Russell and Mozgov for Brook Lopez and a draft pick that turned into Kuzma. If we take into consideration that in large part, the Lakers did it to get off the horrible Mozgov contract, you could defend it. But when asked about trading Russell, Magic said he did it because of the Swaggy P debacle, and for lack of leadership. Despite being traded three times in his young career, that’s the only trade he still takes personally.

“Hell yeah, shi**. Only the LA [trade], because Magic kicked me in my ass on the way out. I didn’t understand that; I was young and naive. Why and what was the point?”  

D’Angelo Russell, The Old Man & The Three

Being traded so many times early in his career, Russell said he accepted the business side of the NBA quickly. But the way Magic talked about him post-trade is something he still uses as motivation. D’Angelo pointed out he was lucky to land in Brooklyn, where he had a much situation to learn and develop as a young point guard. 

“Going to Brooklyn, I had better guidance. If you look back, I wasn’t the guy in Brooklyn. I wasn’t a guy until I had to be. Spencer [Dinwiddie] was definitely one of those guys that could carry a team. Caris [LaVert] was the guy that could definitely carry a team.” 

D’Angelo Russell, The Old Man & The Three

In addition to those guys, Kenny Atkinson and the Brooklyn coaching staff were patient and allowed Russell to work through his mistakes. They pushed him to take more shots and develop his game. Byron Scott was the complete opposite in LA, more in the Tom Thibodeau school of thought. Not known for developing young players. 

The last few Kobe years and Magic’s tenure with the Lakers were an organizational mess. But even going beyond that, the purple and gold are not known for organizational excellence. For many teams, messing up a draft prospect like that would mean a decade of pain and restarting a rebuilding cycle. For the Lakers, it’s a bump in the road.