By: Desmond Boyle, Staff Writer
Kobe Bryant’s outstanding 60 point performance in his last game offered entertainment to basketball fans everywhere and temporary relief to fans who have watched their favorite team collapse over the last four seasons.
The Los Angeles Lakers are clearly in need of a solid rebuilding plan with the core of their title winning team all gone. The only problem is that the first building block of this plan may alienate any talented players joining the team.
One of the most bizarre scandals in the sports world unfolded this past month after Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell, recorded a video of teammate Nick Young discussing women other than his fiancée, 25 year-old rapper Iggy Azalea. Russell issued an immediate apology to Young and denied knowledge of how the video was released to the public.
This scandal is going to affect the Lakers way beyond just hurting the chemistry between these two players. As point guard, Russell needs to develop a trust with each player on the court to have an effective ability to distribute the ball around the court and control the offense. Developing this trust now looks like an impossible task for the former Ohio State star.
In the days following the incident, Lakers players reportedly shunned Russell by not speaking to him at all off of the court. One player reportedly walked away when Russell tried to sit down next to him at a team lunch.
While the team’s chemistry suffered at the end of the season, it didn’t cost the Lakers much, because the team was nowhere close to finishing in a playoff spot. The Lakers wrapped up the 2015-2016 season with a franchise-worst 17-65 record, which prompted the team to fire head coach Byron Scott this past weekend.
Whoever the Lakers hire to replace Scott will be faced with a major question. The team will probably have the most cap money to spend in the league following the departures of big salary earners like Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. The dilemma for the new coach will be whether or not to keep Russell and risk not being able to lure talented free agents like Kevin Durant or Andre Drummond, or to take a cap hit and cut Russell loose.
Russell has undeniable talent that he showcased in bits and pieces this past season, which is why the Lakers drafted him third overall this past year as one of the first pieces of the new team’s core. But now, the Lakers may have to start rebuilding all over because of a twenty second long video.