Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Two years ago when the Lakers held the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, forgoing the predictable and safe pick of Duke forward Jahlil Okafor felt bold and daring in a way the Lakers, to that point, had not been. Their executives instead zeroed in on D’Angelo Russell.The way he commanded other players on the floor and his ability to whip hard passes through narrow corridors led then-coach Byron Scott to declare, “The last guy I saw do that … was Earvin.”Two years later, Magic Johnson saw something other than a modern version of himself. He saw a player whose coaches constantly lamented his attitude and who was not perfectly suited for either guard position. Most importantly, he saw an opportunity.The Lakers president of basketball operations on Tuesday took a hard pass of his own, using Russell as a sweetener to dump Timofey Mozgov and his embarrassingly bad contract on the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Brook Lopez and the No. 27 pick in Thursday’s draft. So don’t get it backward. All Tuesday’s deal says about the Lakers is that they valued the cap space and the flexibility to chase those players more than they did Russell’s potential.What it says about Russell is more complicated and cold-blooded.That the Lakers had apparently little trouble making Russell a casualty of the trade speaks volumes about his value within the organization. The Lakers no longer believed he could be part of a core of Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac and, seemingly, Ball. It’s another black mark on the reign of Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss, that they wasted a top-two pick on someone who would become so nonessential.Sure, Russell’s time with the Lakers was imperfect, but in two seasons he averaged 14.3 points and 4 assists and shot 35.2 percent from 3-point range. His staunchest advocates like to point out that his advanced metrics compare favorably to players like Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul and Steph Curry at similar stages in their careers.Fans liked his swagger.“Ice in my veins” became a popular refrain among Lakers faithful after Russell brought the expression to the NBA with a game-winning 3-pointer against Brooklyn in 2016.In April, Russell hit a buzzer-beater hours after learning his grandmother had died and sprinted into the stands so he could hug his brother and sob into his shoulder.That was one of the most genuine moments you’ll ever see in sports.However, the Nick Young video leak clung to Russell like a scarlet letter. He led the Lakers in eye rolls, started petty wars with members of the media and sulked when he felt like his job was being challenged.Russell might very well shine in Brooklyn. He might even become a star in coach Kenny Atkinson’s up-tempo system. It became clear long ago, however, that the Lakers no longer believed that would happen here.The player who arrived with the burden of comparisons to a legend has been relieved of those expectations by Magic himself. Another team believed in Russell enough, however, to take on Mozgov’s terrible contract. The potential is still there, though it might no longer be unlimited.Two years after he arrived, D’Angelo Russell’s greatest contribution to the organization he was drafted to save was the manner in which he went away. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersWhereas the Lakers owed Mozgov a salary cap-munching $48 million over the next three seasons, Lopez, 29, is going into the final year of his contract and is one of the best offensive centers in the game.However, this deal wasn’t really about Lopez, a 3-point shooting 7-footer who has played at least 72 games in seven of his nine NBA seasons.And from a business standpoint, it wasn’t about Russell either.The Lakers are now free to draft Lonzo Ball on Thursday without any questions about whether he and Russell can coexist, and the trade portends a more aggressive push to acquire Paul George this summer, rather than a year-long game of wait-and-see.George is trying to force his way to the Lakers. The Cavs can’t help but give LeBron James reasons to look for a new home. On the horizon, Russell Westbrook and DeMarcus Cousins might also be free agents in 2018.