Magic Johnson Says Lakers ‘Needed a Leader’ After D’Angelo Russell Trade

Magic Johnson, the Los Angeles Lakers‘ president of basketball operations, thanked D’Angelo Russell for his services on Friday and said the team decided to move in a different direction because what the team needed was a “leader.”

“D’Angelo is an excellent player,” Johnson said, per ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes. “He has the talent to be an All-Star. We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader. I needed somebody also that can make the other players better and also [somebody] that players want to play with.” 

Those comments served as a stark comparison to the ones Johnson made Friday about Lonzo Ball during his introductory press conference. 

During his opening remarks to media assembled at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo, California, Johnson referred to Ball as “the new face of the Lakers” and “the guy who I think will lead us back to where we want to get to,” according to Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters

“We’re used to great leaders,” Johnson added, per the Los Angeles Times‘ Tania Ganguli. “That’s why we win.”

Johnson also heaped praise on Ball’s selfless style of play and how it will make the game easier for the rest of the Lakers’ youngsters. 

“He gives you a scoring pass. That’s the key. Not just a pass. One that you can score,” Johnson said, per Lakers.com’s Mike Trudell. “All our players are gonna be excited.”

Russell, meanwhile, will attempt to ignite the Brooklyn Nets‘ rebuild now that he’s headed for the Big Apple. 

That won’t be an easy task considering the state of the Nets’ roster and their lackluster asset base, but Russell should be afforded opportunities galore to lead the charge and operate as a primary scorer and facilitator for Kenny Atkinson’s club in the years ahead. 

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