It may sound crazy to say that a 21-year-old is getting a ‘second chance’.
It may sound crazy to say that the Nets are getting a ‘second chance’ too. This time, it’s a chance to make this Brooklyn thing right after trying to force greatness through star power rather than have it happen naturally. We know the consequences by now because they’re living through it.
D’Angelo Russell is the lottery pick they should’ve had. He’s only 21. He’s younger than half the picks in June’s draft and younger than 40 of the 60 players the Nets worked out before the Draft.
The Nets and their fans needed a reason for hope after becoming a laughingstock of the league. The front office and coaching staff have given the Nets respectability around the league. The success, the development, of D’Angelo Russell, IS the young regime’s biggest test. He has the chance to be the “homegrown” face of the franchise the Brooklyn Nets never had — if it all works out.
New York City already loves him.
Following the “snitching” incident with Nick Young, D’Angelo Russell became the outcast on the team. People make mistakes at 19-years-old. Some, but not all, of his teammates couldn’t trust him and handled it by ‘isolating’ him.
His coach, Byron Scott, didn’t even initially speak to Russell about the incident.
"I haven't talked to him, won't talk to him. That's an internal matter that our guys will deal with," Scott said. "The only thing that I'm disappointed about is that it got out. We're a family, and we try to keep everything in house."
Byron wasn’t always exactly known for his leadership. He refused to let his team take three-pointers when the game was changing. He called out Russell and some of his younger players. So, he lost his job. Two years in the league and Russell had two different coaches. L.A. may have been too much for the man.
Now he walks into a culture in Brooklyn where the coaching staff is there for you when you need them. There’s structure in Brooklyn with diets, workouts and several other things. The players seem to enjoy each other’s company as a (mostly) young team looking to get better. And it’s almost guaranteed that Kenny Atkinson is not going to call Russell out to the media. That is not something he does, period. Maybe behind closed doors but that is it.
Sean Marks trusts the coaching staff to execute this project.
“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 GM Sean Marks after the trade.
D--Lo will appreciate certain things that fall under the “culture” that’s discussed so much. Things like that help avoid the kind of problems that hammered him in L.A.
“He’s excited to be starting fresh,” Russell’s father, Antonio, told the New York Times. “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.”
“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 told Adrian Wojnarowski.
Cohesiveness and motivation. There wasn’t much of that with his former team.
"I think guys enjoyed playing with me," Russell said, leaving open the possibility that some didn’t. "Now I'm going to make sure they do instead of not really taking it into consideration."
He even said everybody from the custodian at HSS to top executives welcomed him “with open arms” his first day in Brooklyn. That’s the kind of stuff he needs. It’s part of his second chance, yes, at 21-years-old.
From a business perspective-- and no disrespect to Brook Lopez because he WAS the franchise — but this can be the best thing that happened to the Nets in a while, especially with the direction they’re headed in ... and the young people they’re targeting to become fans.
With Jeremy Lin and his worldwide fan base and rising star Caris LeVert, the Nets may have the most marketable backcourt in the league.
Dare I say, a second chance for... ‘Brooklyn’s Backcourt’ trademark?
It’s obvious Yormark and the Nets marketeers need a star to build a younger fanbase. Enter Russell, the fashion plate who —and as we’ve said before— already knows how to Hollywood and now will learn how to Brooklyn.
See the video above with the Dyckman crowd swarming him after calling him “snitch” at the beginning of the game. That ‘ice in my veins’ swagger is the type of stuff that (most) NBA fans love. Take a look at who swarmed him after that Dyckman buzzer-beater. These were kids, teenagers.
Aside from all that, the most important thing is the value he brings on the court. Put in another way, the most important thing is the hope he gives the franchise and vice versa. Hope never dies, as Dmitry Razumov told Zach Lowe.
He can give the Nets what they need in many ways, and the Nets can give him what he needs to become a star in this league. He joins a team with a goal — a team that will be his for years to come - IF he wants it bad enough. The Nets culture is one where ‘team’ and ‘family’ can get mixed up.
Then President of ONEXIM Sports and Entertainment Irina Pavlova addressed the team at the end of the season at a team dinner in Chicago. As Lowe wrote, she knew her time with the Nets was coming to an end after seven years.
"In my seven years here," she said, "this is the first time it feels like a team, and not just 15 guys on a roster."
Her words mark what the guy she helped hire is trying to build here. Now hopefully, that same culture will envelop D’Angelo as the centerpiece. It’s the second chance that both sides need. Now it’s just a matter of how they make it work.