Los Angeles Lakers: Stop The D’Angelo Russell Trade Talk

Jun 29, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell (1) talks to the media during a press conference at the Toyota Sports Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 29, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell (1) talks to the media during a press conference at the Toyota Sports Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

For the good of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise, it’s time to stop the D’Angelo Russel trade rumors.

Once again, despite being at the bottom of the NBA standings, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves being the hot topic three weeks out from the league’s trade deadline.

The player at the center of the rumors? Rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell.

Rumblings surfaced late Thursday about Russell quietly being made available in trade talks by the Lakers. Many have already begun to speculate on social media and beyond about what it would take to obtain the promising rookie and which teams would benefit the most from adding him right away.

Adding more fuel to the flames of the rumor mill is the open criticism head coach Byron Scott has been hurling Russell’s way as of late, knocking the youngster for cockiness and ball-hogging over the last few games.

However, Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated clarified the truth about the rumors:

As usual, fan and media speculation took a silly rumor and escalated it to a fever pitch. In this instance, it caught on so quickly due to the massive pressure and scrutiny surrounding Russell as the guy Lakers fans are depending on to return them to glory. The possibility of attaining other players or draft picks that could revive the franchise’s competitiveness more quickly probably played a part too.

Allow me to rain on that silly parade by saying this: the Lakers cannot and will not find any trade of any kind that will justify trading away such a promising young player.

Granted, Russell is currently the Lakers’ most attractive asset in the trade market. However, he is also the most valuable asset in the plan to build a successful future for the franchise.

Russell’s play speaks for itself, as he’s only gotten hotter month after month throughout his rookie campaign. Russell’s 12.2 points per game are fourth among rooks while his 3.3 assists are third and his 32.7 three-point percentage is in the top 10. He also measures in the top 10 in usage rate (third), value added (eighth) and estimated wins added (eighth) among rookies.

Even these robust stats understate Russell’s impact on a Lakers team seeking leadership on and off the court in the post-Kobe Bryant era. And yet, the player that they have drafted to lead them into this era has faced nothing but obstacles since coming into the league.

First, the lack of playing time given to him by Scott for lack of confidence in Russell’s assertiveness; then being benched by Scott multiple times, including once for stepping up to take over a game late; and now whispers of him being quietly shopped by the organization that boasted and gushed about him after surprisingly selecting him over what many saw to be a sure bet in Jahlil Okafor.

While he is a rookie, the levels of disrespect he is being shown by those inside and outside the organization is ridiculous.

Russell sadly has the misfortune of not only being in the hypercritical basketball market that is Los Angeles, but also belonging to a rookie class with some certified studs in it, thus making his progress seem minuscule.

But make no mistake, people: he is progressing.

Those who have been following this Lakers team this season have seen a young point guard grow from being lost in the frantic tempo of the NBA game and being too timid to look for his own shot to a player in command of his game with a sniper-accurate stroke and ice in his veins when the game is on the line.

His ability to facilitate, which has been a constant positive in his game, only continues to get better and his 1.2 steals are not only third among all rookies, but in the top 20 among all point guards. You can’t ask for much more than that in a franchise point guard, let alone a first-year point guard.

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Simply put, it’s time to stop the talking and let Russell be.

All the chatter about his play and potential trade rumors are potentially damaging to the confidence of a promising youngster like D’Angelo Russell, and if fans, coaches and higher ups want their point guard of the future to grow, they have to give him the chance to do so — free of scrutiny.