D’Angelo Russell: “Leaking the Video Wasn’t Me”

When you make the biggest mistake of your young professional career, contrition is the first step to rebuilding your reputation, followed by atonement. But a rebuild is always at a cost; the detritus sticks to you even as you are eventually forgiven. No one really forgets.  It’s the great life irony, that everything is running smoothly and then, seemingly without warning, you have to fall on your sword. Welcome to the D’Angelo Russell world. Everything has changed for him. In the aggregate, his entire character is being defiled. He is the representative of the millennial generation and their cautionary tale of self- taping addiction and recklessness and entitlement. Russell has shaken up the Lakers locker room, so much so, that two weeks before Kobe retires, he has to deal with this dark fugue hanging in the recessed corners.

D’Angelo Russell admitted in a brief media session before tonight’s game against the Heat that the locker room was tense. He called it a “bad vibe”. Several players he didn’t name have talked to him privately and he knows he has to win back the collective trust. “For a winning team you need everybody to trust each other. ” He admitted that the damage has been done.

Now that Russell apparently understands every action has a consequence and that happy go lucky D-Lo hanging out in the city, chilling with his friends, living that life has to at some point consider his professional responsibilities, this situation has done what Byron Scott couldn’t do with all his yelling and screaming. It has made an impact on D’Angelo Russell.

“I am sorry about recording the video. I can’t repeat myself enough on that. I am sorry I recorded myself on that. I am sorry I recorded that video. I feel horrible. I wish that never happened.” (D’Angelo Russell to the Vertical)

Russell is still unsure how the video was uploaded. Clueless is a better description. He couldn’t offer one explanation though a popular social media theory has to do with friends seeing it and someone pushing send, either accidentally or for malicious reasons.

“I’m sick about it”, he said to the media before the Lakers played the Heat. “I wish I could make things better right away but I can’t. We (Nick and D’Angelo) play around. We joke. We laugh. We say things we don’t really repeat. That was just an incident of playing too much goes wrong. I take full blame for recording but leaking the video wasn’t me.”

Russell’s friendship with Nick Young only makes it more complex as a soap opera taking a dark turn. On the surface, it makes it farfetched as a narrative that Russell would do something to wreck Young’s relationship with Iggy Azalea. He apologized to Young. But he doesn’t know if his apology was accepted which is indicative of how this change of events has marched through Young’s life like wildfire, burning everything it touches to the ground.

“He’s (Nick) someone I would talk to. You could always get a laugh if you’re playing bad. I don’t consider this a prank. Like I said, I’m sick. Only time can make it go away. I don’t have a clue as to how it got out there. I know I didn’t put it out there.” (D’Angelo Russell)

Young appeared depressed when he was in front of the media at Staples, as if the social media rumors were true about Azalea calling off the wedding. His eyes were incredibly sad. He said, “we handled the situation in a private matter.” He didn’t say anything else and walked off.

That it was Nick Young who was the one victimized in this public, social episode only made the optics that more unpredictable. On the outside, many consider Nick Young a joke with his crazy shots and self-promotion and very small game. But inside the Lakers locker room, Young is the most liked Laker player and the one everyone wants to protect. He has one of those personalities everyone loves, and furthermore, his happiness is so infectious that when he is sad everyone feels it like a punch to the gut.

Nick Young and D’Angelo Russell have been close hang out buddies ever since training camp. Both share the same silliness and addiction to telling jokes, living lighthearted and having a good time.

“He’s one of the guys I always talk to about anything.”, Russell confessed.  “I cherish our friendship. To have an incident like this come up and put it in jeopardy was not what I intended to do. We play around all the time, we joke around all the time. It just got into someone else’s hands. It wasn’t a prank. It wasn’t intended for anyone else to see.”

It’s a tough lesson for Russell to learn, that the NBA isn’t high school and it isn’t college. A level of self-discipline and self-awareness is required, and so when you make mindless videos, as he said he did with Young frequently, and you have a lot to lose, then you delete them. Over and over again, Russell repeated, “this was not a prank.” It was a video on his phone that someone got their hands on and did what they wanted with it.


photo via llananba