BROOKLYN, N.Y. – D’Angelo Russell sure gets around.
He arrived in Brooklyn on Saturday night, went to the gym at HSS Training Center that same night. ALREADY. Sunday, he spent time at Barclays with his new teammates at the BIG3 event. Then that night, it was back to HSS for another workout. Finally, on Monday, he returned to HSS for his introductory press conference and interviews and pictures ... and another midnight workout, this one with Caris LeVert.
In fact, Sean Marks said Monday that Russell was so excited about joining his new team that he was ready to jump on the first plane out of L.A. Wednesday.
“We’re not going to fly and get you on a red eye tonight, ” Marks told NetsDaily.
It looks and sounds like Russell is ready for Brooklyn. Asked if he wants to be the face of the franchise he quickly answered, “Yeah.” Then, he talked like a leader.
“I just can't wait to get this team back where it's supposed to be. We've got a lot of young talent, including myself, we've got great vets sprinkled in there, and a coach that's really hungry. When we put that together, it's gonna be something special.”
“I’m tired of talking about what I do or what I’m gonna do. I showed it. I wanna get in right away and let my actions speak.”
So there, Magic!
Marks opened the presser by welcoming Timofey Mozgov and Russell’s families to Brooklyn. This isn’t the first time he’s done that. For D’Angelo, it’s a sign that this IS a positive environment – a culture based around cohesiveness. No past, no need for sins to be recounted.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m here now. Everybody’s on the same page, just the commonality with everybody, the staff, the players, everybody’s really tight with each other. You can tell everybody’s hungry around here,” Russell said. “I think the sky’s the limit – we’ve got a lot of great guys out here. The front office, those guys do their thing, the coaches, they’re just as hungry as the players. Everybody really wants to win, that’s the main focus.”
The talk of the weekend was how Russell’s past antics might affect the culture Marks has labored to build; How his attitude and “immaturity” from the past might plague Brooklyn’s mission.
Magic Johnson tested Russell even more, telling a press conference held to welcome his replacement, "He has the talent to be an All-Star. We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader. I needed somebody also that can make the other players better and also [somebody] that players want to play with."
Hmm. That’ll test one’s patience, and reporters were dying to hear what Russell’s response would be. Instead, he handled it in the most mature way possible. That was then, this is now, was his message.
“It’s just good to be here. I can’t really control that. It’s in the past. I’m here now, it’s irrelevant. Control what you can control is really the main focus in this league.
“Wherever they put me, I’m gonna take advantage of it to the fullest. If that’s me being a leader right away, I’m looking forward to the challenge. You’re saying my leadership’s been questioned, this is the opportunity to make the best out of it.”
Russell’s father offered his own assessment of the trade to Malika Andrews of the Times.
“He’s excited to be starting fresh,” Russell’s father, Antonio, said. “He’s very excited to be in a place where he feels like the team, the organization, everybody is going to push him and have his back, 100 percent.”
D’Angelo’s past is infamous. He “snitched” on Nick Young via Snapchat, discussed an affair Young was having while dating Iggy Azalea. Russell has moved past that and so have the Nets. He did, however, “snitch” on Caris LeVert Monday ... in a funny way.
“The workout last night…Caris was supposed to be there, but he wasn’t,” he said, as people in attendance all chuckled.
In a way, that was telling. He felt comfortable making fun of a teammate first day on the job.
LeVert and Russell knew each other before the trade, but he’s already bonding with teammates and looking to get in the gym with them. He mentioned how welcoming everybody was when he first got here. We wrote about how he spent some quality time with LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Archie Goodwin at the BIG3 tournament at Barclays Sunday. He revealed that he and Jeremy Lin had some conversations as well.
“Honestly I’ve talked to all the players. They’ve been great, reached out to me with open arms, J-Lin’s been good too. I’ve talked to him a little bit when I first got here, I haven’t really got to talking to him about playing with him but I’m looking forward to it.”
The debate among Nets fans has been: who will play point – Jeremy Lin or D’Angelo Russell? It seems more complicated than it actually is. Russell is a big 6’5” combo guard with great court vision. The Nets are a position-less basketball team with a number of playmaking combo guards. They have more than five of them, at least for the moment.
Not to mention after last year’s injuries, a surplus of solid point guards wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. It’s very likely that he and Lin will both handle the rock and play off the ball depending on what’s working.
Asked about this specific topic, Russell replied with a vague, yet articulate answer. (It seems to be the way the entire Nets organization handles the media.)
“The way basketball is played, the way the league is changing, nobody is really recognized by position. I just try to make plays when I’m out there and be the best player I could be.”
Of course, it won’t be a walk in the park. Marks told NetsDaily that once the deal was done, there was “excitement,” but also a realization that the trade carries some risks, starting with the loss of solid citizen Brook Lopez.
Moreover, D-Lo is 21-years-old and has parts of his game he needs to fix up. That, in large part, is why Sean Marks trusts the coaching staff to develop Russell and him to use this as both a second chance and a launching pad.
“To get a young player like D’Angelo who’s 21, we could’ve easily drafted somebody a year older, the fact that we can get someone in here who’s 21 years, who we develop with Kenny and our player development coaches – that’s what I’m banking on,” said Marks.
And that’s what makes this trade worthwhile. The Nets are being patient in the rebuild and they have one of the best development staffs in the league You lose a guy like Brook Lopez – whose big shoes will be hard to fill – but you gain one of the most talented young prospects in the league at a time when Brooklyn’s pick situation is, to be kind, awry. It’s all about finding ways to develop the young core and getting better every year.
Of course, the question that must be asked constantly: can you develop a winning culture… without the winning. Expectations aren’t very high now, but maybe – just maybe – D’Angelo can bring some swagger to Brooklyn and give the city what it’s been waiting for: hope.
“Being in Brooklyn… this is an organization that’s on the rise.”
Then, he went to the players lounge and took this picture for his fans, now including Nets fans. Talk about being on the rise.
For Nets fans, D-Lo is the first tangible result of the rebuild, a potential star for Brooklyn, a 21-year-old capable of dropping 40 on Kyrie Irving or dropping eight three’s on the Nets.
The facilities are great, as are all the other amenities, the players lounge, the D-League, the family room, the New York skyline and yes, so are the culture, character and strategy. But teams are about players. And D’Angelo Russell, for all his flaws, IS a player.
- D’Angelo Russell, Happy for a Fresh Start, Is Ready to Lead the Nets His Way - Malika Andrews - New York Times
- D’Angelo Russell looks to build respect with Nets - Greg Logan - Newsday
- D’Angelo Russell burying Lakers past, starting with Magic’s rip job - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- D’Angelo Russell eager to put past behind him, begin new chapter with Nets - Daniel Popper - New York Daily News
- D'Angelo Russell arrives in Brooklyn, leaves sour stint with Los Angeles Lakers in past - Brian Mahoney - AP
- D'Angelo Russell is the lottery pick the Nets never had - Kristian Winfield - SB Nation
- Nets' D'Angelo Russell says Magic Johnson's criticism is 'irrelevant' - Ohm Youngmisuk - ESPN
- Former Laker D'Angelo Russell on Magic Johnson's criticism: 'It's irrelevant' - Colin Ward-Henninger - CBS Sports
- The D’Angelo Russell Reclamation Project Has Begun - Haley O’Shaunessey - The Ringer
- RUSSELL IS READY FOR BROOKLYN - Brooklyn Nets
- D’Angelo Russell calls Lakers’ trade reasons ‘irrelevant’ - Mark Medina - Orange County Register