When he replaced Jim Buss as the Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations, Magic Johnson revealed his plan to make the Purple and Gold an attractive destination for superstars. As a front office executive, Johnson’s first move was to send D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets to get rid of Timofey Mozgov and his lucrative deal. The trade earned mixed reactions from fans and sports analysts but during those times, Johnson decided not to give specific details why they sacrificed a player as talented as Russell.
According to SB Nation’s Nets Daily, the only explanation Magic Johnson gave after the deal was that the Lakers needed a “leader” that “players want to play with.”
“He has the talent to be an All-Star,” Johnson said.
“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.”
When he made the deal, Magic Johnson believes that Lonzo Ball, whom they selected as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, would be a better starting point guard for the Lakers than D’Angelo Russell. Unfortunately, Ball is yet to live up to expectations from the player Johnson expected him to be.
Many things have happened since the controversial deal between the Nets and the Lakers, including Magic Johnson’s resignation as Lakers president of basketball operations. In a recent interview with Stephen A. Smith of ESPN, Johnson made some revelations regarding the trade that sent D’Angelo Russel to Brooklyn. Aside from dumping the contract of Timofey Mozgov, Johnson revealed that the incident with Nick Young made them decide to get rid of Russell.
“I said let’s trade some people, get some draft picks, so on and on. D’Angelo, great guard, but had a problem when Shaggy P and the whole Nick, the whole thing went down,” Johnson said.
“So I knew we had to get him out.”
Magic Johnson tarnishing not only Laker legacy, but his legacy https://t.co/ZAzBerwZrJ— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) May 22, 2019
The controversy involving him and Nick Young undeniably affected D’Angelo Russell’s NBA career. However, being traded to the Nets turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Russell. In just two years of playing in Brooklyn, the 23-year-old point guard succeeded to earn his first NBA All-Star selection, after averaging 21.1 points, 7.0 assists, and 1.2 steals on 43.4 percent shooting from the field and 36.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc. While the Lakers continue to suffer huge disappointments, Russell helped the Nets end their three-year playoff drought.