A look back at some of the controversial moments of D’Angelo Russell’s rookie season.
Los Angeles Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell is having quite a week.
Late Tuesday night, an ESPN report dropped the hammer on Russell, who is apparently being ignored by his teammates after he surreptitiously recorded a conversation between him and Nick Young about relationships with other women.
Although this is easily the most ridiculous story of Russell’s rookie season, it’s hardly the first during what has been a drama-filled campaign. Take a look back at some of the more dramatic moments of Russell’s first year in the NBA.
Trade Rumors...in June! (June 6)
Days after being drafted, Russell was already the subject of trade rumors. The Lakers were reportedly looking into the idea of including the No. 2 overall pick in a deal for DeMarcus Cousins. Things only picked up from here.
Preseason Injury Trouble (Oct. 1, Oct. 7)
Once he hit the court, Russell immediately started encountering problems, sustaining two injuries in the preseason. The first? A fairly innocuous bone bruise. The second? A cringe-inducing bruised glute after a hard fall.
Forgettable Debut (Oct. 28)
On the NBA’s opening night, Russell squared off against No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns, and easily played the worse game of the two. Towns recorded a double-double, while SI's Ben Golliver described Russell’s performance as “simply forgettable.”
Position Switch After One Game (Oct. 29)
Russell’s experiment as a shooting guard lasted one game. After Russell’s subpar opener, Byron Scott moved him back to point. (To be fair, this one has a lot to do with Scott.)
Fourth-Quarter Benching (Nov. 10)
In a November loss to the Miami Heat, Russell was benched for the last 16 minutes of the game. Did Scott tell him why? Of course not. “I don't know,” Russell answered when asked if he knew why he’d been benched. “I've got to figure out what I'm doing wrong so I can correct it.”
Taken out of the starting lineup (Dec. 7)
Coach Byron Scott decided to move Russell and Julius Randle, the franchise’s two most recent first-round picks, to the bench. The move took Russell by surprise.
“I've never been in this position, so I don't know how it's going to affect myself,” Russell told reporters. “But I ain't expect it to happen like that. So if I was the problem or if I was the change that needed to happen to better the team, then I guess it was worth it.”
Scott says Russell knows about 20% of playbook (Dec. 24)
“At times, he does know. Then at other times in the game, I think he has no clue,” Scott said, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. “He’ll call a play for a high pick-and-roll and we’ll call it off. I’ll say, ‘No. Let’s do something that involves two or three passes.’”
Scott says Russell is “lazy” with the ball (Jan. 29)
Byron on D’Angleo: "Very, very bad start, for sure. Again, just way too loose with the ball. Just too lazy with it right now."— Baxter Holmes (@Baxter) January 29, 2016
Russell said he has to stop playing "lackadaisical." Added: "Just have to take every rep like its your last." Which seems kinda intense— Bill Oram (@billoram) January 29, 2016
Russell questions whether he’s improving (Feb. 1)
D’Angelo Russell on his season: "I feel like I was improving. Now I feel like, I don’t know, not really as much."— Baxter Holmes (@Baxter) February 1, 2016
Scott questions Russell’s maturity (Feb. 11)
“[Kyrie Irving] was just a little bit more mature,” Scott said. “At 19, he was a little bit more businesslike at practice and games. D’Angelo still has a playfulness about him. Sometimes in practice he’s joking around and losing a little bit of focus. But he’s 19. I understand that. Chris Paul was probably like 23 years old by the time he came into the league in his mental capacity. But like I said, each point guard, each guy I have, is different.”
Scott was then asked if he meant Russell’s “playfulness” was a negative trait.
“I didn’t say it was a bad thing, but it is a bad thing at times,” Scott said. “There’s always a time to be serious, and there’s always a time to joke around. So I’m not saying it’s a bad thing -- I’m saying he’s 19. I understand it. I’m not saying it’s bad or good, but Chris Paul wasn’t like that, and Kyrie was a little bit, but not that much. But like I said, again, they’re all different, and I accept that.”
Jordan Clarkson warns Russell “don’t say anything crazy,” Feb. 13
After the Rising Stars game at All-Star Weekend, Russell was asked about how it felt to play with more freedom than Scott typically allows. Before he answered, teammate Jordan Clarkson whispered, “Don’t say anything crazy.” The comment was picked up by a microphone and caused a stir.
“They were asking some crazy questions when we were up there, and I just didn't want him to get put in a situation where he was looked at as a problem or something,” Clarkson explained later, according to ESPN.com. “We ain't got no problems here. I didn't think they were going to catch me saying it.”
Scott commits to putting Russell in starting lineup (Feb. 21)
The same day Russell started his first game since Dec. 12, Scott announced Russell would be in the starting lineup for the rest of the season. He has averaged 16.2 points and 3.5 assists in the 18 games since.
Russell sets career high (March 1)
In the Lakers’ 107–101 win over the Nets on March 1, Russell dropped 39 points and hit eight three-pointers. It was the highest–scoring game by a rookie since Kyrie Irving in 2012.
Russell apparently present during alleged harassment (March 20)
A woman told ESPN.com that she and her mother were leaving a restaurant in Los Angeles on Sunday when a car carrying four men stopped beside them at an intersection and directed “vulgar, sexual” gestures toward her mother. Two of the men were later identified as Nick Young and Jordan Clarkson, after the woman posted a photo on Instagram.
It appears that Russell was also in the car.
Video leaks of Russell speaking with Nick Young (March 24)
Russell apparently recorded a private conversation between he and Young, and the video was leaked by a gossip site. In the video, Young, who is engaged to rapper Iggy Azalea, appears to confess to having a relationship with another woman. In a longer version of the video posted by another site, Russell says “I’m glad you told my video all that.”
ESPN reports the video has caused a rift in the Lakers’ locker room (March 29)
The Lakers are responding to the situation by ”isolating” Russell, and that at a recent meeting the players refused to sit at the same table with him, a source told ESPN. When Russell tried to sit next to teammate Lou Williams in the locker room, Williams stood up and left, the source said.
On Wednesday, Russell was surrounded by security as he exited the Lakers' practice facility.