The former No. 2 overall pick explained why his tenure in Los Angeles lasted just two seasons.
“I didn’t know how to be a professional and the guidance wasn’t there also,” Russell told The Athletic. “I don’t blame anybody. I blame myself. It was really a blur to me, just in the sense that the things that I’ve been through ever since then.”
Russell got caught up in locker room drama with former Lakers guard Nick Young, leading to a trade to the Brooklyn Nets in 2017.
Despite two solid seasons in Brooklyn, where he averaged 19.0 points per game, Russell was again a part of multiple trades this past season.
He was the Golden State Warriors’ prized possession in their sign-and-trade of forward Kevin Durant during the offseason.
However, the Warriors flipped Russell again at the trade deadline to the Timberwolves in exchange for forward Andrew Wiggins.
“When I tell you about my career, it’s like I’m in the water and I take a breath,” Russell said, “Then I see it and I go back in the water. I take a breath and then I see it again, and I’m right back in the water.”
The Ohio State University product entered the NBA in a difficult situation in Los Angeles, as his rookie year was clouded by the fact that it was the great Kobe Bryant’s final season.
Ohio State head coach Jeff Boals, who was an assistant during Russell’s lone season for the Buckeyes, believed that Russell was put in a bad position from the beginning.
“It was unfair to him,” Boals said. “He was the No. 2 pick headed to Los Angeles in Kobe’s swan song year. You’re playing for a coach in Byron Scott who really doesn’t like rookies to begin with. You’ve got Kobe in his final year and everything revolves around him.”
Russell has greatly improved since his time with the Lakers, becoming an All-Star in the 2018-19 season.
This season, he averaged a career-high 23.1 points, in addition to 6.3 assists per game.