D’Angelo Russell has started to show, as he did before he went down in November, just what he’s capable of: great court vision, outstanding ball-handling, a game as good outside as it is in ... and now, finally, poise.
It’s taken some time, with some ups and downs as he fully recovers from his time lost to knee surgery. But the flashes of what Sean Marks saw in him last June are evident. And he just turned 22.
Now, that he’s feeling better, DLo has made it clear in an interview with Marc J. Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated just how he feels about Brooklyn and his second chance. As Spears writes, “Russell hopes that one day fans will barely recall his rough start in the NBA.”
“A lot of guys take advantage of their opportunity after they get traded or after they get drafted somewhere and go to another place,” Russell told Spears before the Warriors game. “That is where people remember them from. I want to build my legacy here. I got drafted to L.A., but I don’t want people to remember me from [the Lakers].
“I don’t want L.A. to be any part of my legacy as far as what I left behind. Guys don’t know that Chauncey Billups was drafted by the Celtics. Guys remember him from Denver and Detroit, stuff like that.”
Russell still has a year after this one on his rookie deal — at $7 million. After that, he’ll be a restricted free agent, and he left no doubt of where he wants his future to be. In the county of Kings.
“There is a lot of opportunity here,” DLo told Spears. “It’s an organization that is on the rise. No one really knows what this organization is about. I feel like with the staff we have and the players that we have, we can work together to make it become something.
“Winning in New York is different. And Brooklyn being a complete separate borough, the fan support is amazing. Everything is amazing.”
Russell is careful not to diss his two years in L.A. ... too much ... but he left little doubt that he’s a lot happier here.
“It was good,” he said of the Lakers experience. “I learned a lot from it. It opened my eyes a lot in terms of the business standpoint of this league. It just gave me a better blueprint on how to be a professional.”
Contrast that to how he answered Spears about arriving in Brooklyn.
“I thought it was great. Coming into a new situation, I thought I handled it well. Everybody welcomed me with open arms. It made it that much easier to fit in and establish what I brought to the table.”
He admits getting back to where he was in November is a process, but he sees something special at the end of it.
“I feel like it’s a process with a long season ahead. It’s hard to say you’re fully back when you don’t really have the proper rest and the proper tools to get there. You just have to work with what you have. And I think I am doing a great job managing it...
“After having the knee injury, it’s literally a step back for a major comeback, my comeback right now,” he added.
There’s a lot more in the interview, including what he learned from Kobe Bryant; how he felt about Magic Johnson’s comments, and how the cold in the Northeast is affecting him.
- Nets’ D’Angelo Russell talks life after Lakers, playing with Kobe and living in Brooklyn - Marc J. Spears - The Undefeated