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NAJEE’S NOTES: Trust is now a Lakers issue

The Los Angeles Lakers, sputtering to the end of Kobe Bryant’s farewell season with the worst record in franchise history, face a fresh crisis involving prized rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell, who has lost the trust of the majority of his teammates.

That may not be newsworthy to some, but for me the Los Angeles Lakers is this city’s most valuable and historic franchise. I first fell in love with the Lakers when I attended a game they played at the Fabulous Forum against their archrival the Boston Celtic’s more than 40 years ago.

I can’t even remember who won the game. But I remember Kareem Abdul-Jabber and his skyhook. I’ve been hooked ever since.

The Lakers have made an impact not just in my life but the entire city of Los Angeles. They have 16 world championships and 21 players have been inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame. That number will most certainly go up once Bryant retires officially and becomes eligible to be voted in.

The Lakers are a legendary franchise so this type of public scandal has become breaking news, and the controversy doesn’t seem like it’s going to end anytime soon with the reports this past week of  Russell video recording a private conversation between himself and teammate Nick Young.

In the video, Russell asks Young at one point, “You was 30 and she was 19?” referencing Young’s age and the age of another woman that Young said that he met in a nightclub.

“What about Amber Rose?” Russell later says, mentioning another celebrity. “No, she knows my girl,” Young responds.

Later in the conversation, while apparently still recording, Russell is heard telling Young, “I’m glad you told my video all that.” “Huh?” Young says, turning his face toward Russell before the video cuts off. Young does not appear to realize he is being taped.

The video, which is believed to have come to light last week via the Twitter account of a celebrity gossip site, shows Russell filming Young while asking questions about Young being with other women. Young and Australian rapper Iggy Azalea announced their engagement last June.

While it’s unclear how the video became public, sources say the resulting tension in the Lakers’ locker room in recent days was among the factors that contributed to L.A.’s limp showing in Salt Lake City on Monday night, when they absorbed a 48-point pounding from the Utah Jazz. The loss equaled the worst in franchise history.

Russell’s teammates are “isolating him” after the emergence of the video.

At a recent breakfast meeting, one source said, no Laker would sit with Russell at his table. The source added that in another instance, Russell came into the locker room and sat next to guard Lou Williams, who got up and walked away.

The Lakers have long considered Russell to be a key part of their future after using the No. 2 overall pick to select him a year ago and raved about his “superstar” potential on the night they drafted him.

Even Lakers coach Byron Scott, whose handling of Russell this year has been scrutinized, came into the season speaking of him in the same breath as Lakers legend Magic Johnson when describing Russell’s court vision. Russell started the Lakers’ first 20 games before being moved to the bench along with second-year forward Julius Randle.

On countless occasions this season, Scott has publicly questioned Russell’s maturity. I realize that everyone makes mistakes but what Russell did was a violation of the locker room and teammate code. You never violate the trust of your teammates.

That’s an unwritten rule that’s understood. Kobe Bryant who is one of the greatest players ever is still not trusted by many around the NBA because who can ever forget how he snitched on then teammate Shaquille O’Neal to Denver police when he was arrested years ago?

This is a tough situation for Russell to be in. I’m not sure if he can ever live it down. I just pray that the franchise I grew up loving as a child can recover and return to greatness one day.

Hundreds of grassroots activists and elected officials attended last week’s standing-room only Metropolitan Transportation Authority board meeting. Mayor Lindsey P. Horvath of West Hollywood, with the All On Board Coalition and its dozens of activists, were there in support of the Crenshaw line northern extension to West Hollywood.

The project to finish the Crenshaw Line would fill a gap in the MTA’s existing network, optimizing the regional transportation investments that have already been made. By completing the extension to the Red Line along San Vicente, the Crenshaw Line would connect people to over 700 regional destinations, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center — both a job center and a major health care provider — the new NFL stadium in Inglewood, and the surrounding development, and connects LAX to the stadium to the Sunset Strip.

The extension of the Crenshaw Line also is an opportunity to optimize the MTA’s existing network. The northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line would enhance regional connectivity and would be a critical north-south transit alternative between LAX and Inglewood to Hollywood and beyond. I’m excited about this proposed project and with Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts and other elected officials advocating for its passage I’m hopeful that is will be successful.

Attorney Areva Martin is one of the nation’s leading legal experts in the media and founder of the Special Needs Network, whose mission is to raise public awareness of developmental disabilities and to impact public policy, while providing education and resources to families, children and adults.

The network serves as a link between underserved communities and mainstream developmental disability organizations and governmental institutions, which often fail to address issues specific to these communities.

It will hold its annual Tools for Transformation X Conference and Legislative Breakfast and parent, professional and community two-day conference.

The largest conference of its kind in Los Angeles, Tools for Transformation, will bring together renowned experts in medicine, law, education and advocacy for the purpose of providing families with cutting edge information and resources through a full day of classes and workshops.

This comprehensive annual conference will  focus on critical issues related to autism, developmental and learning disabilities, mental health, education and advocacy, and is a must-attend event for parents, advocates and health care professionals.

Activities will include workshops and seminars led by recognized experts, advanced advocates’ summit, plenary session, networking luncheon and an awards presentation for exemplary figures in the community including outstanding students who have beat the odds to achieve education and/or career success.

A resource fair will provide families the opportunity to connect with health service providers, disability rights attorneys, and other special needs professionals.

For information on conference or breakfast sponsorship, resource vendor or presenter please contact Special Needs Network at (323) 291-7100 or info@specialneedsnetwork.org.  Hope to see you there!

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