D’Angelo Russell wasn’t in the free agent pool long before the Los Angeles Lakers moved in.
Shortly after reports emerged that the Brooklyn Nets were expected to get a commitment from Kyrie Irving, the Lakers moved to schedule a meeting with Russell when free agency starts on Sunday evening. Silver Screen and Roll reported that the Nets were expected to “renounce” Russell, allowing him enter unrestricted free agency as one of the most sought-after guards. The Lakers appear to be the first team to pounce on him.
The report noted that Russell is eligible for a four-year max deal starting at $27.3 million, and though the Lakers have $32 million in cap space, it didn’t sound likely that they would offer the full max deal. Despite the financials, it appears the Lakers are aggressive in courting Russell, as evidenced by the meeting they already have scheduled.
After the Lakers landed Anthony Davis in a trade that took months to come to fruition, rumors indicated that Los Angeles was planning to be aggressive in rounding out the roster around LeBron James and AD. A string of reports connected the Lakers to just about every available guard, including both Irving and Kemba Walker. Now that both Irving and Walker appear to have commitments to new teams, Russell would be the best point guard remaining in free agency.
The negotiations could be tricky, Silver Screen and Roll noted. The Lakers didn’t exactly give Russell a soft exit two years ago when trading him to the Brooklyn Nets for the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, which was used to land point guard Lonzo Ball. Magic Johnson, then president of basketball operations for the Lakers, gave Russell a bit of a parting shot as the team shipped him off east.
“D’Angelo is an excellent player,” Johnson said, via ESPN. “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.”
ESPN story on Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets meeting Sunday as a prelude to a four-year max deal — and the Lakers beginning pursuit of D'Angelo Russell. https://t.co/R4oydpB9vZ
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 29, 2019
But Magic Johnson is now gone, and D’Angelo Russell would return to what looks to be a much different Los Angeles Lakers team. After a disappointing first year of the LeBron James era, that Lakers have been aggressive in building a team that could compete in a Western Conference that should be more up for grabs as the mighty Golden State Warriors begin to splinter.