The Heat began its three-game West Coast trip with the league’s eighth-best record, on the cusp of clinching a playoff berth, and without the off-court controversy that has descended on the other proud franchise that it squared off against late Wednesday night at Staples Center.
The Lakers, stumbling through a 15-59 season after winning 27 and 21 games the previous two, spent Wednesday trying to diffuse a mushrooming controversy stemming from a leaked video in which rookie guard D’Angelo Russell filmed teammate Nick Young while Russell asked questions about women other than Young’s fiancée, Iggy Azalea.
Young did not know he was being taped.
In the video — which was filmed two months ago and recently released by a celebrity gossip website — Young appeared to acknowledge meeting another woman at a club.
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“You was 30 and she was 19?” Russell asked Young in an apparent reference to the age difference between Young and the woman.
Asked before Wednesday’s game whether he believes he put Young’s planned marriage in jeopardy, Russell said: “Honestly, I do.”
Russell said he never sent the tape to anybody and has no “clue” how a gossip site obtained it.
“I feel as sick as possible,” Russell said. “I wish I could make things better right away but I can’t. This got in the wrong hands. It wasn’t a prank. It wasn’t for anybody to see. The damage is done. The best thing you can do is own up to it.”
Russell said he apologized to Young but “I don’t know if it was accepted.”
Russell said he typically “jokes” around with teammates, and says “it was an incident of playing too much gone wrong. Only time can make this really go away. If I’ve lost anybody’s trust, I’m gonna work my tail off to get it back.”
Whereas Russell took questions from reporters, Young did not. Young, appearing at the podium without Russell, spoke briefly, saying: “I think it’s best me and D’Angelo handle our situation outside the media. We have to work on it.”
ESPN reported that no Lakers player would sit at Russell’s table during a recent breakfast, and teammate Lou Williams stood up and walked away when Russell sat down next to him in the locker room.
“It’s bad,” one Lakers source told ESPN.com. “It’s about as bad as it can get. There were trust issues already. Now there’s no trust.”
Lakers coach Byron Scott said he worries how this will affect on-court chemistry. This wasn’t the Lakers’ only embarrassing incident.
Last week, a woman accused Young and Lakers teammate Jordan Clarkson of harassing her and her 68-year-old mother at a Hollywood intersection, but a Lakers investigation was inconclusive.
The Lakers, who entered Wednesday coming off the most lopsided loss in their history (a 123-75 drubbing by Utah), will have $66 million in cap space this summer and might target Heat center Hassan Whiteside, among others.
Growing up, Dwyane Wade wanted to “handle like” Allen Iverson and “wanted to play like” Kobe Bryant.
“No question, for me, Kobe was one of my role models,” Wade said.
So Wednesday’s 20th and final meeting between Wade and the soon-to-be retiring Bryant was meaningful for the preeminent shooting guards of the post-Michael Jordan era.
“It has been a treat for me for so many years to be able to stack myself up against him and compete against him,” Wade said. “There are good young players, but there will never be another Kobe.”
Their relationship survived Wade’s hard foul that inadvertently broke Bryant’s nose in the 2012 All-Star Game. Wade had won 11 of their 19 head-to-head meetings entering Wednesday.
Wade’s favorite Kobe memory?
He cites their first meeting, when he stole the ball from Bryant late in a 99-77 Lakers win in November 2003.
“That was the holy grail,” Wade said. “Then I went down and scored. Inside I felt so good. It didn’t mean nothing to him. But to me it meant the world.”
Guard Tyler Johnson, working his way back from left shoulder surgery, said he is “very optimistic” he will be able to play before the regular season ends in two weeks.
But Johnson said he’s “definitely not ready yet” and begins to feel discomfort in the left shoulder after shooting for awhile.