Here’s Lakers legend and president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, explaining the trade that sent D’Angelo Russell to the Nets and cleared the way for second overall pick Lonzo Ball to supplant him as the team’s point guard of the future:
“D’Angelo is an excellent player,” Johnson said Friday, when the team introduced its top draft pick Lonzo Ball at its practice facility. “He has the talent to be an All-Star. We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader. I needed somebody also that can make the other players better and also [somebody] that players want to play with.”
Part of this is undoubtedly Magic hyping up Lonzo Ball, a guy who is liked very much by four of his high school teachers:
“I went to the high school,” Johnson said. “I talked to the principal. I talked to, I think, four teachers, they all said at different times, this guy, everybody attracts to this guy. And I said, OK, that’s all I needed to hear. He’s a leader. He treats people the right way. I said, OK, we’ve got our man now.”
You just wonder if Magic learned that Russell’s high school teachers hate his guts. That’s a lot of shade to throw at a 21-year-old! The availability of top point guard prospects in this year’s draft made Russell expendable, and so Magic seized the opportunity to sell low on Russell in order to send Timofey Mozgov’s hideous four-year, $64 million contract out the door on his coattails. That’s what this trade was about—opening up something like $60 million in cap space for the summer when Paul George and LeBron James become free agents. D’Angelo Russell played just well enough to haul the Lakers out of Mitch Kupchak’s mess. Take it easy on the kid, Magic!