DeMarre Carroll has been where D’Angelo Russell currently is. After a career season with the 60-win Atlanta Hawks in 2014-15, Carroll struggled with his health during two seasons in Toronto before being (salary) dumped by the Raptors this past summer in a trade for Justin Hamilton; first and second round picks were also moved with Carroll.
Russell, of course, returned January 19 from a two-month absence after being “scoped” in November. So if anyone knows what Russell is going through, it’s Carroll ... and he imparted his knowledge to his young teammate.
“We talk about the whole thing, coming back from a knee surgery. I’ve been through it in Toronto,” Carroll said. “There’s going to be so many negatives on the way you play being that you’re coming back from a knee (injury).
“A lot of people don’t see all the work that you’re putting in, so when you get out there and you’re not performing like you was before, people start doubting and jumping off the bandwagon.”
Bandwagon jumping? Nets fans!? Shocking!
Carroll only logged 26 games, suffering from a sore foot, a right knee contusion, and, like Russell, arthroscopic right knee surgery, in January of 2016, which kept him out for three months. He returned in time for the playoffs, where he only averaged 8.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and shot 39 percent from the floor in 29.8 minutes per contest during a Raptors run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Since returning close to a month ago, Russell has played 12 games, starting in none, and scoring 10.3 points in 19.7 minutes per contest, though, he’s shot 35.6% from the field and 25.9% from three. So, no one should be surprised.
So, how do you get through it?
“He’s just gotta keep trying to improve and get back to D’Angelo’s type of basketball, and it doesn’t happen overnight,” said Carroll. “You see, for me it took two years, and I’m back to playing the ball I’m out to play. He’s just got to keep his confidence and keep growing.”
The Nets and their fans should hope that Russell can follow Carroll’s example. The year after his injury, he was able to start 72 games, then this year, enjoy, in some respects, his best season, posting career-highs in points (13.1), rebounds (6.5), and even assists (1.9), all while playing 29.7 minutes per game, the most on the team! More importantly, he’s healthy, and it took two years, which is what he’s bracing Russell for.
Of course, Russell is still only 21 until the end of next week, while Carroll was closing in on 30. And every injury is different.
Indeed, Russell has already shown flashes of what he can do, and what he showed earlier in the season prior to the injury. Russell helped spearhead two Nets comebacks over the last three nights, and dropped 22 points in less than 17 minutes in the only Nets victory over the last 11 games against Philadelphia on January 31.
Though, yes, there have been inconsistencies, and beyond the obvious minute restrictions, Kenny Atkinson and the Nets have given reason to believe Russell is still not 100 percent, and they’re just being true to the “proceed with caution” mindset.
Whether or not he is, Carroll has been there, and as the leader of the Nets this season, he took it upon himself to let Russell know that it’s going to take time to get back to where he was, and get up to where he knows he can be.
“He’s young, so I know he gets frustrated,” Carroll said. “But I’m here to support him and let him know he’ll be alright.”
That’s why they brought him here.