Two months to the day since his surgery to remove loose bodies in his left knee, D’Angelo Russell got the word that he’s likely to the return to the Nets line-up vs. Miami on Friday night.
Russell is officially listed as “probable” for the game. After making the announcement, the Nets tweeted out this graphic, a play on DLo’s “N:0W” digital watch tattoo ... and his message for the season.
The 6’5” guard went down on November 11 vs. Utah, then after further examination, needed arthroscopic surgery on his knee six days later. The Nets did not say at the time how long recovery and rehab would take, but later, Sean Marks suggested it would be six to eight weeks. Thursday is the eight-week anniversary of the surgery, performed by Dr. Riley J. Williams III, the team medical director.
Russell “looked good” at practice on Wednesday, according to coach Kenny Atkinson. The Nets haven’t clarified what, if any, minute limits or restrictions Russell will be under initially.
A little more then seven weeks of rehab, and Russell was back practicing with the Long Island Nets. On January 15th, he participated in a “full-on” practice with Long Island, which marked his first announced 5-on-5. He practiced with the Brooklyn Nets the following day.
Atkinson said the decision would ultimately be a collective effort with a big say coming from the performance team.
“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.”
One of the main themes of Russell’s rehab was improving his strength, and an opportunity to develop in a different area during the process.
“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.”
Atkinson explained how he was on a “very regimented schedule” that saw about five hours of treatment and weight lifting per day.
“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.”
Russell’s impact on the team will be interesting. They’ve lost six of the last seven and sit 13 games below .500. They’re 11-22 since his injury.
Russell is likely to be paired in the backcourt with Spencer Dinwiddie, who averaged 14.4 points and 7.2 assists since taking over the starting point guard duties. Atkinson told reporters that he’s “comfortable” with the two playing alongside one another, the same way it was going to transpire with Jeremy Lin before the season.
His return will help most of the team as he draws double teams and creates, especially in the halfcourt where the Nets struggle. He brings a different dynamic to the team, one that could help Jahlil Okafor too.
Traded to the Nets the night of the 2017 NBA Draft, the 21-year-old Russell was averaging 20.9 points, 5.7 assists, and 4.7 rebounds in 28 minutes when he went down. He was shooting 46.8 percent overall and 30.0 percent from the three-point line.