Magic Johnson Trashes D’Angelo Russell After Trading Him to the Nets

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

For the most part, Los Angeles Lakers fans were not pleased with team president Magic Johnson’s decision to trade talented young guard D’Angelo Russell for a year of Brook Lopez and a lot of cap space in the summer of 2018.

Maybe that’s why Magic felt the need to defend his decision during the press conference announcing the arrival of 2017 No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball, going so far as bashing Russell, the second pick of the 2015 draft, in the process.

“D’Angelo is an excellent player. He has the talent to be an All-Star. We want to thank him for what he did for us,” Magic said before turning the knife. “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.”

The Lakers now have almost enough cap space in 2018 to fit Paul George and LeBron James, both free agents by then, onto their roster.

“When you have this much cap space, we’re going to be major players next summer,” Magic said. “The tide has turned. People want to play here again. It’s exciting times for the LA Lakers. I wouldn’t have made that move if I didn’t think I could use that money. Enough said.”

Russell, in addition to his flashing star potential, earned a reputation for immaturity in his time with the Lakers, most notably accidentally broadcasting teammate Nick Young’s admitting to past infidelity.

But Magic got what he needed out of Russell, flipping that potential for sweet cap room. The Lakers president had nothing to gain by trashing the 21-year-old on his way out, except for saving face by justifying a mostly panned trade.

The 57-year-old is the only one who came out of this deal looking immature.