EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said he doesn't believe a video scandal involving D'Angelo Russell will hurt the team in free agency, quelling concerns about trust issues other players around the league might have with Russell after the rookie point guard secretly recorded teammate Nick Young discussing women other than his fiancé.
In Kupchak’s first comments about the incident since ESPN first reported in late March that Lakers players were isolating Russell after the video first surfaced on social media, Kupchak, speaking Friday at exit interviews at the Lakers’ practice facility, said, “Every day that goes by, it becomes less and less of a story.
“Both players did the right thing in terms of addressing it and, when necessary, making amends or making an apology acknowledging a mistake.
“We’ve dealt with players in this organization, on this team, that have made mistakes over the years, and we’ve gotten through it and had great teams and won championships,” Kupchak said.
The video shows Russell recording a private conversation with Young in which Russell asks Young leading questions about being with women other than his fiancé, Australian rapper Iggy Azalea.
While it’s unclear how the video became public, sources told ESPN that some teammates’ trust in Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, began eroding after it did, resulting in noticeable tension in the locker room.
“That situation obviously hurt us,” said Lakers coach Byron Scott. “And when you’re in that locker room, trust is a must. It is a must. Because whatever 15 guys, or 14 guys you have in there, it’s a family. And when that trust is broken, it is very hard to recapture. So, that was a situation that obviously hurt us.”
Scott continued, “Obviously, it didn’t help the team, let’s put it that way. As far as me talking to those guys, I looked at it like this: They’re two grown men, they’ve got to talk this out amongst [themselves], I cannot force guys to talk to each other.
“But what I can do, and what I did do, way before that happened, is that I tried to give them enough information on how to handle situations here in Los Angeles and to make them understand that we are in a fishbowl. Everybody from the outside is looking in, and you have to understand that. You are a target no matter what. And every time you think you’re somewhere and nobody’s watching, somebody is.
“So just be very careful in the things that you do, the things that you say, and obviously we had one blunder and it really messed up, or divided, that locker room. That being said, time heals all. [Russell] made a mistake, he knows it. You know, he is our player and we love that kid.”
Kupchak said he believes Young and Russell could co-exist the next season, but, regardless, the Lakers are expected to part ways with Young either through a trade or by waiving him this summer. Young has two years left on his deal with the team.
Immediately after ESPN’s report, Russell said, “I know if I’ve lost anybody’s trust, I’m going to work my tail off to gain it back because it’s something you need for a winning team. You need everybody to trust each other.”
Russell touched on those comments again during exit interviews Friday.
“I wish I never said that,” Russell said. “I don’t feel like I lost my teammates’ trust.”
Russell added, “I’m a funny, goofy guy, but I can’t be funny, goofy, happy-go-lucky all the time like I was before because people were probably laughing with me but now they might just laugh at me. So I wouldn’t say I lost trust. It’s more [that] I’ve got to pick and choose when I do me. I feel like my teammates have been very supportive and Kobe [Bryant] has done a great job of doing that for me.”
The 20-year-old Russell averaged 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists over 28.2 minutes in 80 games this season.