They came face-to-face Tuesday night, the two players who have been linked in trade rumors, one of them being Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell, the other being Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray.
Numerous reports have had the Lakers seeking Murray from the Hawks and that they were willing to use Russell as the player to facilitate a potential deal.
The Lakers have until the NBA deadline of Feb. 8 to make a deal.
After dropping their second straight game on a six-game trip, a 138-122 defeat to Atlanta at State Farm Arena, the Lakers (24-25) are below .500 and need a positive infusion from somewhere.
At the start of Tuesday’s game, Russell and Murray guarded each other, making for an interesting scene considering all the talk.
Before the game, Atlanta coach Quin Snyder refused to engage a reporter’s question about the trade rumor.
“I shouldn’t even have to answer that question,” Synder said. “I think I made it clear that I don’t comment on rumors and speculation. It’s not something I get involved with.”
Hawks fans did.
When Russell was shooting a free throw in the first half, they wanted him to know how they felt.
“We don’t want you!” they chanted over and over.
There was a moment in the fourth quarter when Hawks fans saw why they still want Murray and why the Lakers have shown so much interest in the two-way guard.
Murray easily drove around Russell and pulled up for a 12-foot jumper, staring at the Lakers’ bench before going back down court.
Murray won this matchup, scoring 24 points on 11-for-19 shooting, handing out nine assists and getting two steals.
Russell, who had been on a recent tear, had just nine points on three-for-11 shooting.
When Murray had a straight drive to the basket that gave the Hawks an 18-point lead, Lakers coach Darvin Ham called a timeout with 3 minutes, 21 seconds left.
He pulled his starters from a game that was more difficult for the Lakers because of the absence of Anthony Davis, who sat out because of a sore Achilles’ and left hip spasms. It was only the third game Davis has missed this season.
So, that left it up to the 39-year-old LeBron James to play in back-to-back games and lead the Lakers.
James had 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in 36 minutes.
Austin Reaves scored a season-high 28 points.