This is the day that Brooklyn Nets fans have been waiting for since D’Angelo Russell was traded to the team on June 22.
This is the day that D’Angelo Russell has been waiting for since being traded ... even though he won’t admit it.
After only two seasons in the league, the Lakers basically gave up on Russell in order to give No. 2 overall pick, Lonzo Ball, the keys to the franchise.
Since then, Russell has said all the right things dating back to the trade. He has not lashed out at the team or Magic Johnson who famously dissed him. He has everybody circled on his calendar, he said, and this is just another game. But knowing the type of player Russell is, we expect Brooklyn’s guard to flash a cross-country message under the Hollywood lights Friday night.
It’s the game he’s waiting for against the organization that blackballed him, benched him and then talked about him on his way out.
WHO SAID WHAT WHEN?
On June 23, a whole one day after the trade took place, Lakers General Manager Magic Johnson, had choice words for the departed Russell, who played under two different coaches in two seasons. Johnson was hired, Ball was drafted and Russell was out. All in the span of a couple of days.
“But what I needed was a leader. I needed somebody that also can make the other players better and also [somebody] they want to play with” Johnson said of Russell with Lonzo Ball sitting next to him. Rough stuff.
D’Angelo Russell hasn’t made much of the trade since it happened. The words, “Magic” have come out of his mouth, in a quote, just once since.
“Definitely,” Russell told Woj in podcast if he felt blindsided by the comment. “I didn't know what the reason behind it was. I'm off your hands. I have nothing to do with you, I'm on a new team. I didn't understand the comment, I still don't.
“Like I said before, he's still one of the best point guards to ever play the game, and for him to say anything about me I can just run with it. If it's negative, if it's positive, whatever he has to say about me, it's something I can just run with and make the best out of it,” Russell said.
“What does it look like me going back and forth with Magic Johnson? I'm not going to win that, so I never once looked at it like that. It's nothing I can do about that,” Russell said.
On one other occasion, Russell commented on Johnson’s remarks, calling them “irrelevant” and that he wasn’t upset to leave Los Angeles. NetsDaily asked if he had this game circled on his calendar and he told us, “Everybody is circled on my calendar. Everybody.”
WHAT’S BEING SAID... TODAY
Russell isn’t saying much and isn’t hyping up this game. If it’s anything, it’s a sign of a little more maturity on Russell’s end. He continues to have a team-first mentality focused on getting the win and starting the road-trip on a good note.
“Getting this first win [of the trip] is really important for us,” Russell said this week. “Like I said, it’s going to be an exciting crowd about my comeback or whatever. But it’s really about winning for me.”
“I think I’ve gotten better over the summer,” he said. “Definitely want to go in there and showcase that.”
Former teammates of Russell know what he’s capable of. They only played with him for two seasons where he averaged close to 15 points per game despite circumstances that could’ve really knocked him down as a player. Instead, he’s moved on to his new team on the opposite side of the country and continues to play the best ball of his young career ... and it’s early.
"Oh, he's going to be fired up," Jordan Clarkson told Ohm Youngmisuk. "S--t, he'll try to go for 30? 40? I don't know how many shots he's gonna put up. He's gonna come in here, he's gonna try to get a win for sure. He's definitely going to put them up."
Randle, who Russell has claimed to be the only Laker he stays in touch with, said similar things.
"He kind of got a fresh start. He still was in a major city in Brooklyn, New York. He's obviously doing very well,” Randle said, before adding: "[Russell will be] extremely fired up. Who wouldn't be?"
One of the stories DLo has heard as of late has been his poor defense. He’s putting up good numbers offensively —much better than he did in L.A.— but needs to buy in defensively.
He’ll have more of a reason to clamp down on Friday, being that his matchup is the kid that replaced him: Lonzo Ball. All the hype has been around Ball, who’s averaging nine points and six assists in 33 minutes per game.
Ball may have just been drafted this past offseason, but only 20 months separate him and Russell. He’s playing the second night of a back-to-back after recording zero points in 28 minutes. All eyes are going to be on this matchup, as the former future face-of-the-Lakers goes up against the current future face-of-the-Lakers.
It isn’t only a revenge game for Russell, but for Brook Lopez who spent nine seasons with the New Jersey and Brooklyn Nets. The Lakers haven’t utilized Lopez as much as most expected early on, but he seemed to get it together last night while Lonzo struggled. Lopez had his biggest night of the year with 27 points in 29 minutes.
Expect him to come out fired up.
Russell is averaging 21.7 points, five assists, four rebounds and one steal in just 26.5 minutes per game. His per 36 numbers are even more impressive — averaging 29.5 points and six assists.
After recording a season-high 33 points Tuesday, he’s had as many 30-point games in seven games this season as he did all of last season. He’s posted games of 30, 17, 16, 29, 15, 12, 33 to go along with four games with five assists or more. That 21.7 point-per-game average is six points better than he did with the Lakers last year ... and in two fewer minutes.
NEW TEAM, NEW START…
At the end of the day, the game will (likely) be a footnote for the both the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers season. What matters most for D’Angelo Russell is getting the Nets to get this thing right again following a three-game losing with five upcoming games on the road. He’s told Randle he’s “excited” about the Nets.
Everybody wants to see him put up big numbers, but this is his chance to prove to the Nets – not the Lakers – that he is the leader they hoped for when they acquired him. It’s only eight games into the season, but the Nets need a win to get the ship headed in the right direction. They’ve yet to win an away game because of their failures to finish down the stretch.
It’s a new team and a new start for Russell. He’s going back to the place he briefly called home. A place that’s filled with bittersweet memories thanks to one issue he had at 19-years-old. Despite the past, it’s safe to say that Brooklyn is glad he’s on their side of the battle.
We’ll see how he handles the pressure.
I️ can’t wait to see this tonight....he back in LA— Nick Young (@NickSwagyPYoung) November 3, 2017