C.J. Nitkowski never played professional basketball, but he did spend almost two decades in major league clubhouses. Thus, he knows his way around a locker room. He knows what goes on, he knows what gets said and he knows that everything is off the record – right until the moment is isn’t.
D’Angelo Russell sent shockwaves through the sports world this week, this after secretly recording a video of teammate Nick Young essentially confessing that he cheated on his fiancee, Iggy Azalea.
Different sports, different generations, but the same reaction. Nitkowski wouldn’t welcome Russell into his locker room anytime soon.
“I think you can never trust him again, to be quite honest with you,” Nitkowski said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I don’t approve of the behavior on either side. Certainly on the player who was cheating on his fiancee, you don’t approve of that by any means. But I also definitely do not approve of a teammate secretly taping a conversation with another guy on your team. There’s no way. Listen, a lot of things happen in clubhouses that probably shouldn’t happen over the course of a season, but there’s always that automatic assumed trust amongst your teammates. I’ve seen it before where you have guys run into issues where wives get kind of chatty, (where they say), ‘I heard so-and-so was doing this when they were in Cleveland.’ You get that kind of thing and the next ting you know, there’s a team meeting and guys are saying, ‘Hey, tell your wife to be quiet. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.’ That stuff has happened. Even though it wasn’t a player directly, that can get a guy alienated in the clubhouse, so you got to be careful. You don’t want to lose the respect of your teammates. There’s no way you recover for this for me. I just don’t see how you do it. You’d be afraid to say anything around a guy if you know he’s had this kind of history already and wondering what’s his motivation to begin with.”
Russell’s social-media faux pas is the latest blunder in a season that can’t end soon enough for the Lakers (16-59), who own the second-worst record in the NBA behind the 76ers (9-66).
And if L.A. fans are counting down the days until Opening Day, well, maybe they shouldn’t. The Dodgers have made the playoffs three years in a row, but Nitkowski sees them taking a step back this season.
“I think the Dodgers are in trouble,” he said. “I was a little concerned about them going into spring training before guys started falling left and right. I think the Boston Red Sox are going to have some issues. We just heard Pablo Sandoval is going start the season on the bench. Travis Shaw is going to be their third baseman and Brock Holt is getting the start in left field. That wasn’t even a conversation before spring training starts, so I think those guys are in a little bit of trouble.”