Lakers News: Latest Buzz on D'Angelo Russell, Talen Horton-Tucker and More

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2019

Brooklyn Nets guard D'Angelo Russell gestures toward the crowd after hitting a three-point shot during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Friday, March 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Nets won 111-106. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The rumors and news surrounding the Los Angles Lakers were always going to get at least a little strange as the front office turns its eyes toward filling out the roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. 

Somehow, the post-draft news cycle for the Lakers has managed to loop in a guy by the name of D'Angelo Russell. 

Coming out of Thursday's draft, management has to use dwindling resources creatively to field a competitive team, which means likely crossing the fingers for another superstar but ending up with a more grounded approach. 

After a quiet draft process, these are the most noteworthy Lakers items making the rounds. 


D'Angelo Russell Return?

On the rumor front, other than the expected "interested in every superstar available angle," the dominant item pertains to Russell, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2015. 

The Lakers and Russell had an ugly split under Magic Johnson's guidance two summers ago, which led to the point guard landing with the Brooklyn Nets and blossoming into a star. 

The two have been linked again, this time by B/R's Eric Pincus: "With [Magic] Johnson gone, some close to Russell have indicated he may be open to the idea if Brooklyn isn't in the picture."

This one could gain more traction faster than anyone might expect, too. While the Nets can match any offer to Russell thanks to his restricted free-agent status, they could end up cutting ties with him completely if they sign a max-contract player. 

If Russell hits the open market, the Lakers would be looking at a 23-year-old who averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists last year while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor and 36.9 percent from deep—all career highs. 

Granted, it would be a battle to rip Russell away from other teams willing to cough up a huge contract. But if he likes the idea of a homecoming of sorts, which happens to include instant contention with LeBron and Davis, this could complete one of the more interesting story arcs we've seen the NBA produce in a long time. 


Talen Horton-Tucker Sets Lofty Goals

In the interim, all the Lakers can do is focus on the guys they have on the roster right now. 

That includes No. 46 overall pick Talen Horton-Tucker, a 6'4" prospect with big upside after one year at Iowa State and boasting a 7'1" wingspan capable of making him a defensive situational player almost immediately. 

The following excerpt from Mike Trudell of NBA.com says it all: "When asked if he molds his game after any particular players, THT cited 'guys that do a lot of things' like LeBron and Draymond Green, as well as '2-guards like Bradley Beal.' Horton-Tucker said he watches a lot of basketball and is always trying to take away little things from players to add to his game."

And indeed, the Lakers won't be asking Horton-Tucker to do much offensively as a rookie after he struggled with scoring last year. But this was always an upside-minded pick after the team completed a trade with the Orlando Magic, settling on the 18-year-old prospect. 

If the idea is to keep one eye on the post-LeBron future that could be right around the corner, the Lakers made a good move in grabbing up a player with big goals.  


Jeanie Buss Endorses Rob Pelinka

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss has now spoken: Rob Pelinka is in the clear. 

One would think a general manager who executed a trade for a player of Anthony Davis' caliber wouldn't have any problems in the job department for a long time. Yet, Pelinka was also steering the ship during Magic Johnson's sudden resignation. Magic then went on to publicly comment on a divide between him and the general manager that ended up encouraging his decision to walk away. 

Adding to the perspective problem from the outside looking in for Pelinka was a report from ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes that didn't make him look much better. 

But now, Buss has opened up on the topic, as captured by the Los Angeles Times' Arash Markazi:

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Perhaps the process wasn't the cleanest, and Magic's decision was indeed abrupt. But landing Davis is landing Davis, and the Lakers are now positioned to contend for a long time, both until LeBron retires and possibly beyond. 

Pelinka still has to spend the rest of the offseason properly filling out the roster, and there is a ton of pressure baked into that. But one could argue the hardest part is now over. He's got the backing of Buss, so outside noise is just that.