Just when you thought the Lakers couldn’t be any more of a train wreck this season, D’Angelo Russell happened. Yes, the rookie point guard secretly taped a conversation with teammate Nick Young in which Young, who is engaged to rapper Iggy Azalea, discussed his bedroom exploits with other women. The video, of course, made its way to social media.
Now all hell has broken loose.
“I’ve struggled to recall anything like this in my time covering the NBA,” CBSSports.com NBA insider Ken Berger said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “One of the first thoughts I and was, ‘Why couldn’t Shaq and Kobe have done this? It would have made for even better TV and radio.’”
Bryant and O’Neal actually had a similar beef more than a decade ago, but social media did not exist then. Now it does – and the consequences for Russell, 20, could be drastic.
“To me, the relevance now for the Lakers is this is supposed to be the guy who’s going to lead the franchise forward in the post-Kobe Bryant era,” Berger said. “There have been issues all season long. D’Angelo feeling that Byron Scott wasn’t trusting him, wasn’t putting him in situations to close out games, (was) sitting him on the bench. He was struggling to find a way to be what a point guard is supposed to be, which is a leader. This is not the way to do that. The excuse supposedly is that he intended to put it on Snapchat and it was going to disappear. I don’t know enough about it to know how all that works, but I do know that in our industry, you have to assume that even if you’re posting something in a private Facebook group or you’re emailing a buddy, you have to think twice before you hit that button and you have to assume that what you are sending is going to be read by everyone in the world. That’s the mistake and that’s the lesson learned for D’Angelo Russell. I just don’t know how you get out of this for him. I don’t know. He is supposed to be the leader of the team. The trust level in the locker room was pretty low to begin with, and now it’s at an all-time low.”
Russell’s teammates have reportedly shunned him, refusing to even sit with him during team meals.
Where the Lakers go from here is anybody’s guess.
“I don’t know what they can do,” Berger said. “Again, I don’t know if there’s any hard precedent for this kind of thing. Every team in the league has some basic social-media guidelines about how to conduct yourself and what to post and what not to post and you’re obviously supposed to avoid offensive or vulgar languages or images. I have to believe that there would be some kind of disciplined here. The rest of the locker room, I feel like they need that. What that is, whether it’s a suspension or a fine or what the Players Association would say about it, there’s a lot of issues that go along with this – not the least of which of all is how do the Lakers kind of regroup and repair the trust and the bonds that have been broken here?”
The Lakers, who could finish with the worst record in franchise history, have plenty of cap space to acquire big-time free agents this offseason, but will those free agents want to play with Russell?
Odds are, probably not.
“Who’s going to want to go play with a guy who conducts himself like this and crosses a line?” Berger asked. “You can’t violate someone’s trust like that and expect to continue to be not just a part of a team, but the key part of a team and the leader of one. It’s mind-boggling to me.”