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YES on DLo: He needs to lead ... and he appears ready

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In podcasts with Zach Lowe of ESPN and Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, Ian Eagle and Sarah Kustok talked about how critical a role D’Angelo Russell will play on the Nets this season, as a player and a leader.

At the end of Lowe’s hour-plus interview of Eagle, filled with side-splitting stories of Billy Raftery and fascinating descriptions of his game preps, Ian Eagle said the Nets have basically given D’Angelo Russell the keys to the kingdom.

Now, Eagle added, it's up to him.

Asked by Lowe who he’s excited about this season, Eagle said it’s all about Russell, the 21-year-old point guard.

“He's being told we want you to be a leader. We want you to do all the things you thought you could do in L.A., but maybe were restricted and we want you to be someone we can build around.

“So, if you know that going in, now it's up to him. Now, it's on him. He seems to have the right attitude, the right mindset. He's going to have to put whatever happened to him behind him for two years. And as you know, you've been around this league for so long, you play well, you show the rest of the league what you're all about, the headlines from previous years begin to drop down. That's how it works!”

His controversial and somewhat disappointing days with the Lakers could be a footnote to how he’s ultimately seen.

“Everybody's got a history. Everybody's got something from their younger days. That will not be his legacy. He can change it. He's so young! It's still early in his career and they're giving him the platform to do it.”

When Lowe asked if he thought Russell will start “right away,” Eagle seemed surprised, then added...

“I think Kenny Atkinson will try to create competition on his roster. I don't think he's handling any particular spots. And you're right, logic would dictate Jeremy Lin is going to be a starter. They both may start. That might be your backcourt and have interchangeable parts at that position.”

Atkinson in fact called for “competitive development” in his press conference on Monday and declined to talk about his starting lineup other than to say he has one “way back here,” pointing to his head.

Lowe said he can’t imagine Jeremy Lin or Allen Crabbe, “because of the money,” not starting and added that he’s “all-in” on Caris LeVert. “I think LeVert is going to be good and I would play him with the starters.”

Meanwhile, Sarah Kustok, Eagle’s new sidekick, told Howard Beck much the same thing about Russell. Like Eagle, Kustok spent a lot of time on a larger issue, her pioneering move to the full-time analyst job.

But she too talked about the team outlook and DLo’s new mindset.

“The fact that the Nets were able to get a lottery-type talent like D'Angelo Russell, 21 years old—I know he probably didn't have the first two seasons with the Lakers that he had hoped, that many had hoped and expected.

“But the opportunity, and I've gotten a chance to sit him down for some of our interviews—he's got a different mindset, he's got a chip on his shoulder, he's ready for a fresh start. You bring in a guy like that with a coach like Kenny Atkinson, who's looking to develop players—I just think that having that type of talent in the gym for the Nets makes a big difference.”

Kustok also expects “a lot of competition.”

“They're so... they're so loaded in the backcourt. You look at their roster, and I do think that part of Sean Marks' plan was acquiring talent. Less concerned about what positions do we need to fill, more about what's the best talent that we can bring in. So I think there will be a lot of competition.”

Bottom line for the new YES Network analyst? Improvement.

“The ability of what [Russell] can do, and then match that with an Allen Crabbe—you get a knockdown three-point shooter for as many threes as the Nets took last season, you've got a guy who's proven that he can shoot threes. DeMarre Carroll, I think the leadership that he brings. Will Caris LeVert make the big jump that people expect? He really only played the second half of last season; will he make the jump that people expect? Hopefully Jeremy Lin will stay healthy.”

Training camp starts Tuesday. The first preseason game is a week after that.