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“D” is D-Loading issue ... and he knows it

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The big game with the Lakers is still a day and a half away but as Brian Lewis notes, the match-up between D’Angelo Russell and Lonzo Ball may be all about defense. Ball has yet to distinguish himself in his rookie year ... and the numbers show that Russell isn’t much better ... and he knows it.

First the numbers...

The young guard’s Defensive Rating of 117.2 was not only by far the worst on the team, it was 378th of 417 players on the NBA website. He was 10th-worst among all players who had logged at least 15 minutes. Several of those worse were just bit players; with Russell a building block. It’s a long-term issue Brooklyn must fix...

This will surely be an ongoing process. Russell’s 113.4 defensive rating last season with the Lakers was 210th out of 224 guards, and second-worst among those who logged at least half of their team’s games. It was a point of emphasis when Brooklyn got him from the Lakers, against whom he’ll make his return Friday.

D-Lo and his coach know it’s an issue.

“That just forces you to get in better shape, forces you to not foul,” Russell said. “You’ve always got to feel out the game: You can’t get two quick fouls early in the game and have it affect the team. So with that you’ve got to be smart at the same time.”

Kenny Atkinson knows he can do better.

“Obviously he started out real strong and had the setback with the little injury, and is now trying to gain his rhythm back. But as far as picking up what we’re doing, trying to implement and buy into our principles, he’s been outstanding,” Atkinson said Tuesday. “The leadership’s going to come. That’s going to take time. Think of yourself at 22 years old.”

And what better day to do that than Friday.

“It’s the next game, so hopefully we can get a win,” said Russell, denying any added incentive to beat the team that drafted and then traded him two years later, Magic Johnson ripping him on the way out the door. “Personally, I want to win. Personally, I want to win.”