D'Angelo Russell is proper fare. He's got the kind of game that you can bring home to meet the parents, but also he might roast you like a slowly spinning cone of shawarma. His handiwork is wholesome, and it grows more tender and juicy by the day.


But if you had no inkling of any of this being true back when he was an ostensibly failed experiment and waste of a No. 2 overall pick as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, nobody would blame you. His game out in LA was... well, gamey. He was less a prancing pronghorn than a mangy rabbit or down-on-his luck squirrel just begging for someone to put him out of his misery already. Which is essentially what for-real happened.


Yes, nobody should blame you for thinking this. Blame Magic Johnson and ​Rob Pelinka for doing zero to aid the kid's development to the point that they may as well have been doing so on purpose for the sake of some kind of sick performance art.

The Lakers had it all planned out. ​They'd bring Luke Walton back to right the ship despite the fact that the dude wouldn't know offense if it fell on him. They'd send Jimmy Buss to the gulag or Palm Springs or Carcosa or wherever he went. They'd get Magic, the biggest smile in the history of the franchise, and Pelinka, Kobe Bryant's old agent and oh-yeah-man-totally the next Bob Myers, to take the reins in the front office and lay the groundwork for signing LeBron James in free agency. 


All they had to do was get rid of a whole lot of dead weight (that wasn't named Jimmy Buss, mind).


Naturally, that meant giving up on that utter failure known as D'Angelo Russell, an absolute mess, an aborted science fair project of an athlete without pure point guard skills, way-too-streaky shooting, and an inability to lead. And the team would replace him with... hey, yeah, with Lonzo Ball! A man who will be able do some of those things with a few years of laboring, maybe!

(It also meant letting the Galactus-level offensive superweapon known as Julius Randle walk away for nothing in free agency and watching Brook Lopez reinvent himself as a seven-foot crackshot, but that's another column.)


Well, long story short, the Lakers will have to beat the odds in order to make the playoffs. But D'Angelo Russell's Brooklyn Nets? That is, ​NBA All-Star D'Angelo Russell's Brooklyn Nets? They're above .500 and settling in at the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference, making them one year ahead of schedule in their rebuild at the very, very least. Russell is a scoring, passing, mushroom cloud-layin' hooper. And he's only getting better.

He's the exact kind of player the Lakers need right about now given that LeBron James is suddenly mortal and coming off a devastating 17-game absence, the longest of his career.


Magic and Pelinka landed King James. Fine. Okay. That's a great achievement. But aside from that fact, let's face it: the Laker organization generally sucks. It's just not in great shape. And though they can steal games every now and then through LeBron's signature brilliance, that's not actually a strategy. Whereas what Brooklyn is building, with D'Angelo Russell front and center, is a sustainable model with an opportunity to generate seismic activity in the Eastern Conference for a solid decade.


Something thrilling is starting to happen at Barclays Center. And in a strange, damning type of way, the two former point guards that run the Laker front office ought to get credited with an assist.