Cool or Drool: Don’t Kiss and Film

Dan Bisno, Columnist

The Los Angeles Lakers may play basketball in Hollywood, but few fans expected that the end of their season to be riddled with the type of drama and media scrutiny the showbiz city is known for. Granted, with perennial superstar Kobe Bryant set to retire this April, there was a certain expectation that the final weeks of the Lakers’ season would be the subject of a lot of attention. But this attention would have been solely to see the future hall of famer and his squad play basketball, not to observe the unraveling team chemistry of an already struggling Lakers squad.

Last week, Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell garnered media attention for leaking a video he filmed of teammate Nick Young. In the video, Young appears to admit to cheating on his celebrity fiancé, Iggy Azalea. Russell confirms the infidelity as well as the age of a girl with whom Young left a club by saying, “You was 30, she was 19,” which Young affirms. Later in the video, Young explains that he would not court model Amber Rose due to her associations with his fiancé. What appears to be a casual conversation between the two teammates takes an unexpected turn when Russell proclaims, “I’m glad you told my video all that,” to which Young responds, “Huh?”

Young, who appeared unaware that he was being filmed, likely had no idea the treacherous aftermath that would ensue after Russell’s social media prank went awry. Within a day, Russell was both a trending trending topic on Twitter and a trending story on Facebook. Azalea tweeted, “hmmm I see D Angelo Russell is trending… I actually liked his film. Thanks bro [sic].” Her large fanbase re-tweeted this nearly 40,000 times. To add insult to injury, Azalea later tweeted, “I’m not tryna marry a cheater.”

Azalea isn’t alone in reconsidering her association with the pair, as both Lakers have thrown their team into the spotlight with immature, inconsiderate and frankly disturbing behavior. Sure, Russell has created unwanted tension in the Lakers locker room — some reports suggest that nobody sat with Russell at a recent team breakfast, while another claims that Lakers guard Lou Williams stood up and walked away when Russell sat next to him in the locker room. However, Young is the one who cheated on his fiance with a 19 year old in a sleazy lack of self-control. Not surprisingly, Young has been adamant in his assertion that the current situation is something that he and Russell must address privately, separate from public and media scrutiny.

Russell told ESPN, “I can’t really show my face anywhere without people hating me right now.” Topping the trending feed will do that to someone, especially when coupled with a tweet by a superstar celebrity like Azalea for blowing the whistle on the disloyalty of her potential spouse. Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson has referred to the debacle as an “elephant in the room” as the drama continues to unfold. Lakers forward Julius Randle labeled the locker room atmosphere as “awkward.” Many critics of Russell have pointed out that his actions fall in line with what one would expect from a 20 year old fresh out of college. Yet being a part of an NBA team means being a member of a professional organization, therefore age aside, his actions are totally inexcusable.

While the team has verbally acknowledged the uncomfortable nature of these unfortunate events, perhaps nothing better illustrates this than the Lakers’ game performance. On March 28, the Lakers matched the worst losing deficit in franchise history, falling 123–75 against the Utah Jazz  — the same Jazz team that is likely to dominate the Lakers again when they face off in the last game of Bryant’s career. The matchup is expected to be the most expensive game in regular season history in terms of ticket price, as well as the most watched.

Young has yet to see any playing time in the wake of these events. Lakers Coach Byron Scott described that not playing Young “was strictly a basketball decision.” Scott went on to say, “Right now, I know what he’s going through, and I know it’s hard on him. But he’s not here with us, mentally, and there’s no need for me to put him out there on the floor.” To be fair, Scott is right. Even before the incident, Young was averaging a career-low 7.3 points per game, rarely looking like the dynamic scorer that he once was. Most Lakers fans find Scott’s decisions easy to judge considering his aversion to disclosing internal issues with the media. There have been no reports of Scott reprimanding the team or the head coach addressing the incident after their loss to Utah. Nobody really knows what is going on with Young — with his marriage, with Russell or with basketball.

Russell claims to have apologized to Young, but this situation is undoubtedly far from resolved. The Lakers had previously alleged trust issues and wavering team chemistry, which were obviously amplified by Russell’s video.

Many rumors are starting to surface that Young may be traded as a result of this incident. The Lakers might send him packing, if in combination with Young’s dwindling performance, he cannot play with Russell. Many fans have objected to this idea, referencing the fact that, although Young is having one of the worst years of his career, Russell is the greatest detriment to the team. However, the Lakers are undoubtedly more likely to keep a 20-year-old point guard who was picked second overall in last year’s NBA draft and possesses immeasurable potential rather than a 30-year-old veteran whose current chaotic personal life is putting his future NBA career in jeopardy. At the end of the day, the NBA is a business and the Lakers’ front office is trying to put together a championship team. Lakers management is less interested in the fact that the immature 20 year old exposed his 30-year-old teammate’s infidelity and much more concerned with a pattern of dwindling team chemistry and losing seasons. While Young is still on contract until the 2017–2018 season, his inability to play in games may cost him that contract extension. In the meantime, Russell has earned a DROOL for subjecting his friend and teammate to the vicious internet trolls that are waiting to tear Young apart, in addition to potentially ruining his marriage.