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DLo: Getting closer, getting stronger

Detroit Pistons v Brooklyn Net Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Before the Hawks game, Kenny Atkinson gave beat writers an update on D’Angelo Russell’s status. He said he couldn’t give them a date for DLo’s return, but did note he’s getting close.

Russell, who’s been out since November 11, went through a three-on-three Friday afternoon that Atkinson described as his next big step.

“He played a pretty high-intensity three-on-three, full-court,” Atkinson said. “So it’s a buildup. I can’t give you a timetable, but it’s trending positive: contact, three-on-three, picks, defense. It’s a daily discussion with the performance team, and when he’s ready, they’ll tell me.”

On Monday, the Nets assigned Russell to the Long Island Nets so he could practice on a Brooklyn game day. With an intense mid-season schedule, there’s been little time for the 21-year-old to practice with his teammates. The Nets played Monday and Wednesday in Brooklyn, traveled to Atlanta Thursday, cancelling practice after the Pistons blowout. Now, there in the middle of a back-to-back and won’t practice again until Tuesday, between home games with the Knicks and Spurs.

So, if you’re harboring thoughts of DLo returning in the Battle of the Boroughs, don’t get your hopes up. And when he does return, don’t expect big minutes either. The plan is to ease Russell back into the lineup.

The long rehab has had its benefits, Atkinson told the reporters. Russell and the performance team have taken advantage of the situation.

“We used this time not only to rehab the knee but to improve his strength, an area of improvement for him,” Atkinson said. “That’s what I told D’Angelo. In a weird way, this has been an opportunity to focus on his body.

“They had him on a very regimented schedule, not one hour a day, not two-hour days, but four, five hours a day of treatment and correctives and weight-lifting. In a weird way, it’s got him on a great schedule, and at his age, it could turn out to be a good thing in terms of development and establishing his habits.”

Always the optimist.

Atkinson hasn’t talked to Spencer Dinwiddie who replaced Russell and become perhaps the team’s best player in the interim, but the 6’6” Dinwiddie likes the idea of two big guards, as does his coach.

“Getting somebody as talented as D’Angelo back is going to be huge for our team, and it’s going to help us in the win column obviously because he’s a great talent and a great player,” said Dinwiddie.