L.A. Lakers Teammates Turn Backs On D’Angelo Russell After He Secretly Records Nick Young Admitting To Cheating On Fiance
(ESPN) The Los Angeles Lakers, sputtering to the end of Kobe Bryant‘s farewell season with the worst record in franchise history, face a fresh crisis involving prized rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell, according to team sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that some teammates’ trust in Russell is eroding after a video surfaced in the past week that shows Russell recording a private conversation between himself and teammate Nick Young. Young does not appear to realize he is being taped.
The video, which is believed to have come to light last week via the Twitter account of a celebrity gossip site, shows Russell filming Young while asking questions about Young being with other women. Young and Australian rapper Iggy Azalea announced their engagement last June.
While it’s unclear how the video became public, sources say the resulting tension in the Lakers’ locker room in recent days was among the factors that contributed to L.A.’s limp showing in Salt Lake City on Monday night, when they absorbed a 48-point pounding from the Utah Jazz. The loss was the Lakers’ worst in franchise history.
Various Lakers officials are aware of the issue and are dismayed with Russell, sources say, but to this point they have chosen not to intervene.
“Right now,” one source said, “they’re handling it by isolating him.”
Austin Brown, Russell’s agent from Creative Artists Agency, declined to comment when reached Tuesday.
Said one team insider: “This was a prank gone wrong and a mistake by [Russell], and he has to be held accountable, but I would hope he isn’t overly criticized for it.”
The emergence of the video, sources said, has been the talk of the locker room for the past several days and has led to a tangible strain between Russell and some teammates.
At a recent breakfast meeting, one source said, no Laker would sit with Russell at his table. The source added that, in another instance, Russell came into the locker room and sat next to guard Lou Williams, who got up and walked away.
“It’s bad,” one team source told ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne. “It’s about as bad as it can get. There were trust issues already. Now there’s no trust.”
In the video, Russell asks Young at one point, “You was 30 and she was 19?” referencing Young’s age and the age of another woman that Young said that he met in a nightclub.
“What about Amber Rose?” Russell later says, mentioning another celebrity.
“No, she knows my girl,” Young is recorded as saying.
Later in the conversation, while apparently still recording, Russell is heard telling Young, “I’m glad you told my video all that.”
“Huh?” Young says, turning his face toward Russell before the video cuts off.
The Lakers have long considered Russell to be a key part of their future after using the No. 2 overall pick to select him a year ago and raved about his “superstar” potential on the night they drafted him. Even Lakers coach Byron Scott, whose handling of Russell this year has been scrutinized, came into the season speaking of him in the same breath as Lakers legend Magic Johnson when describing Russell’s court vision.
Russell started the Lakers’ first 20 games before being moved to the bench along with second-year forward Julius Randle. And Scott, on countless occasions this season, has publicly questioned Russell’s maturity.
“He’s such a kid,” Scott said in February. “I told him the other day, ‘You’re 19, but sometimes I think you’re 14.'”
Russell, who is now 20, is averaging 13.1 points, 3.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds over 27.5 minutes in 72 games this season.
Young hasn’t played in 10 games and didn’t travel with the team to Salt Lake City because of gastroenteritis, according to the team.