Assuming “full-on” means 5-on-5 drills, this would be Russell’s first 5-on-5 practice since undergoing surgery about eight weeks back. He was assigned to the G League affiliate one week ago and had practiced 3-on-3 with the Nets.
While Atkinson said his return date will be a “collaborative“ decision, it will ultimately come down to whenever the performance team deems him ready.
“I’d definitely like to see that, but I also trust our staff,” said Atkinson about Russell practicing with his teammates in Brooklyn before returning. “The feedback I got today – to me I’d like to see him in some simulated game action, but it’s also when the performance team comes into my office… and the coaches.
“I think everything we do is a collaborative effort. When we all come together and say, ‘Hey man, this is the day’ then we’ll go for it. I mean, obviously, D’Angelo,” Atkinson said emphatically. “That’s an important part of it. ‘Hey man, I’m ready to go’ then we all sit in a room and decide what that looks like from the start.”
Sean Marks also wouldn’t commit to any sort of return date in his pre-game interview with WFAN, saying Russell has been “diligent” in his rehab and “progressing really well.”
“Sooner rather than later,” Marks said. “If things go well, we’ll see him in the short-term future.”
Atkinson was also asked whether Russell practiced today so he can get one in before playing San Antonio, particularly because the Nets play at home on Wednesday and Friday.
“There is a scheduled practice, but I’m going to be honest; a lot of times the day after a game it’s a recovery session,” said Atkinson. “But like I’ve told you we can use our roster, we can use our coaches, we can use our G League to create a simulation of game situations. It’s not ideal, it’s not like a training camp practice where you have everybody in and you get a two-hour practice.”
Russell last practiced with the Long Island Nets on January 8. Atkinson has said time and time again that this is all “part of the plan.“ As for Russell – he’s on-board with the plan.
“I’ve been out for a while, so just getting out there with the G League team – they were amazing. They were going 100 mph – it was great. Just getting that sweat again is what I’ve been looking for,” he explained the last time he practiced with the G League team.
Russell received arthroscopic surgery on his knee on November 17 to “remove loose bodies” from his left knee he hurt vs. Utah a few days earlier. Since then, he’s been working to strengthen his knee among other parts of his body.
“We used this time not only to rehab the knee, but to improve his strength, an area of improvement for him,” Atkinson said on Wednesday. “That’s what I told D’Angelo. In a weird way, this has been an opportunity to focus on his body.”
So, there is still no date for his return, but it’s likely to come sometime this week. After the Nets play San Antonio on Wednesday, they play Miami on Friday.
- D’Angelo Russell moves step closer to return - Greg Logan - Newsday
- KENNY ATKINSON ON D’ANGELO RUSSELL’S NETS RETURN: A COLLABORATIVE DECISION - Alex Labidou - Brooklyn Nets