Minnesota Timberwolves never held D’Angelo Russell back after all

Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Timberwolves have made vast changes to their roster in the past 12 months, and so far there has been no shortage of NBA pundits and casual analysts who have relished that fact, taunting the risks that the team took in the effort to improve. How could anyone know how the trades and signings might work out already? They cannot, or could not at least. But one trade that was made appears to be lining up in the Timberwolves’ favor already.

Moving on from point guard D’Angelo Russell was the right move for the Timberwolves. In fact, the trading away of six players so far by Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly all seems to be inspired by foresight right now. But the trade that appears to be the best of all is the trade that exchanged D’Angelo Russell for PG Mike Conley Jr, SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and three future second-round draft picks.

How can you tell when an NBA player is ready to take it to the next level? One such method is simply to stand back and listen to what they say. In the case of players like Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley Jr., and even SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker, they were grateful for the opportunity afforded them on their last team.  Then they talk about how they hope to contribute to their current team.

D’Angelo Russell: ‘Timberwolves held me back.’

That was not the case for D’Lo. He wasted no time casting shade on his former team, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Rather than focus on the task at hand, competing in the NBA Playoffs, he took a swipe at his former team in a very unforgiving manner:

The Minnesota Timberwolves knew over the course of the 2022-23 NBA season that the struggles faced by the players on the Timberwolves roster would either pull them together or push them apart. For most of the players, they pulled together. But D’Angelo Russell proved to be that outlier again and again. He didn’t try to incorporate new center Rudy Gobert into the Timberwolves’ offense. He didn’t even want to be the point guard. He had a mindset of little distribution, less defense, and a lot of scoring. The Timberwolves had seen enough and promptly shipped him to the Los Angeles Lakers at the NBA Trade Deadline.

That’s why I thanked the Lakers and the Lakers fans for welcoming D’Lo so warmly. It was the same pattern for the Lakers that the Timberwolves experienced. D’Angelo Russell wilts in the spotlight, a fact that has been established repeatedly throughout his career. The only true factor that holds D’Angelo Russell is himself. As long as he continues to blame teams, he will never be able to hold himself accountable enough to fix the problem.

Burning bridges is never a wise course. But perhaps now, D’Angelo Russell can begin to acknowledge that being benched in two consecutive postseason series by two different NBA teams has one common element. If he ‘gets’ that, then he will realize that the Minnesota Timberwolves never held him back at all.

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In the end, it seems that D’Angelo Russell held back the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Los Angeles Lakers, in the end.