In what felt like a reconvening of old friends, former Minnesota Timberwolves basketball player and current Los Angeles Laker D’Angelo Russell joined former Wolves back-court mate, former Laker photographer and current Philadelphia 76er Patrick Beverley’s podcast with Adam Ferrone.
Whereas the Wolves-based conversation started at around the 17-minute mark, there were certainly fun parts of the pod beforehand. From discussions of the iconic “He ain’t even stretch though” video from what feels like decades ago (probably because it nearly is) to the funniest way I’ve ever seen someone encourage someone else to be more confident by talking more trash, D’Lo and Pat Bev’s chemistry was certainly not just on the court.
Once we hit the end of that first quarter hour though, we hit the main event for Minnesota basketball fans. We hit a needed conversation about a quote that infuriated the whole Twitterverse of NBA fans. We need to address the hoopla about being held back. Here’s the full transcribed quote:
In moments like these, there’s really only a few ways to handle something like this. There’s one option, to make fun of Russell and clown on this quote coming after the season and not after the quote. And to that end, The Athletic is a high level publication that usually doesn’t lie in the way Russell is saying they did and certainly doesn’t send mafia movie style spies to ask for back alley quotes.
Simultaneously, there’s also some level of truth. Russell was asked to change year after year for the Timberwolves with very little consistency. Post-trade in 2019-2020, D’Lo was the offensive engine, the point guard leading the charge and enabling Malik Beasley to score career highs for about the last twenty games of the season. In 2020-2021, D’Lo was asked to play in two point guard lineups with Ricky Rubio while also being asked to spend all of his minutes sitting on a pendulum of either being the on ball player or being a spot up shooter with only seconds of touch time.
I could go year by year, but by the time D’Angelo left Minnesota, he had played the role of offensive cornerstone, lead facilitator, spot-up shooting specialist, pick-and-roll focus, on-court defensive coordinator, fan motivator, and, during one long forgotten matchup with the Miami Heat, rim protector.
This is not me turning heel on what I’ve said about Russell in the past; my piece has been said even before the point guard was traded, back when he was shooting 40% from the arc on team high attempts. But, if we use his own definition of being held back as “not getting to be who he wanted to be”, then yes, D’Lo was objectively held back in Minnesota. That also doesn’t change that he no longer fit what the Wolves needed and certainly didn’t help himself by allegedly verbally disparaging Rudy Gobert in the locker room while media was present.
D’Angelo Russell’s time in Minnesota will be defined by the Timberwolves looking for cookie cutters to fit Russell into what they were building only to find that Russell was a part of a puzzle they had lost the pieces for years ago. They failed each other but are both better off for it. That’s what comes through when you listen to D’Lo’s thoughts on what his time in Minnesota came down to.
After that reframing by Russell, we returned to the jokes we come to expect from the Pat Bev pod. Beverley and Russell waxed poetic about what Pat called “his best year playing basketball” in 2021. Though a short section, it did bring a smile to my face to remember the simple, unexpected joy that came with that surprise of a season. We also got a quick confirmation that D’Lo knew he was being traded before the deadline because “they [the Timberwolves] didn’t have the money”
Before ending their conversation about D’Lo’s pre-deadline team, Patrick Beverley revealed the information that everyone wanted to ignore and everyone saw coming. Before Russell was traded to Los Angeles, before Beverley was traded to Orlando, and even before Pat was bought out, he was trying to find a way back to Minnesota. It’s funny to think on now that an Austin Rivers hot shooting streak ended any chance of a Pat Bev reunion for a roster that badly needed backup guard play, but especially funny when you consider that Beverley spent about twelve hours reunited with Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley anyway before being traded to the Magic, leading to this hilarious tweet...
The rest of the pod became one of introspection. The conversation morphed and melded into one about the teammates of both players careers. Russell spoke on the difference between his first and second stint with the Lakers and how that separation could be seen in the difference between a late career Kobe Bryant and a late career LeBron James. Beverley repeatedly went to bat for Russell, calling him underpaid and claiming that D’Lo is a “100 million type of player.”
It’s clear the two have a ton of love and respect for each other. That’s been clear since early in November of 2021. What this pod showed more than anything, however, is how both do regret parts of the last year, from quotes to actions, but know they can’t change it. For two players who have regularly been called immature, there’s no greater acknowledgement than one of needing change and enacting it. Russell is searching for stability. Beverley is searching for opportunity. Instead, they’ve both found each other’s companionship. And it was a treat to experience it first hand for an hour or so.