One of the most harmful players on the court for the Lakers during the Nuggets series was D’Angelo Russell and LeBron reportedly isn’t a big fan of his teammate.
He was an offensive asset in the first two rounds, where he averaged 15.7 points a night.
But in the WCF that dipped to 6.3 points and he was -11.8 in four games against the Nuggets.
“I hate to say one playoff series can change a franchise’s whole outlook on a guy because that just does not happen, but it is happening with some of the people in that building, maybe most significantly, with LeBron,” one Western Conference executive told Sean Deveney. “Is this a guy they want to invest in? Does LeBron want him back — there is talk that he is not Russell’s biggest fan.”
Denver were even openly criticizing Russell during the series, with Bruce Brown explaining, “He’s not the best defender, so we wanted to make it tough on him.”
LeBron may even harbor some resentment towards his teammate because getting Russell meant that the Lakers didn’t make a play for Kyrie Irving, which James desperately wanted the franchise to do.
Despite Russell’s lackluster performances in the conference finals, the Western executive believes many at the organization think they should retain him.
“But they gave up that pick (2027 first-rounder) to get him and I can tell you, that was like pulling teeth for some of them in that building,” the exec told Deveney. “They gave up the pick, they are not letting him walk away.”
However, like LeBron could be, the Lakers fans are calling for Russell’s head.
NBA analyst Bill Simmons said the fans at the arena in Game 3 were brutal.
“I think they’ve tabled the contract talks for the offseason for D’Lo,” Simmons said on his podcast. “People were screaming in my section, ‘Get him out of here! Take him out!’ There was a lot of vitriol in the stadium yesterday.”
It remains to be seen whether Russell will be in a different jersey next season as he enters free agency.
But one thing is for sure, the purple and gold have a huge amount to sort out over the summer.