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Can DLo move on to the next step? Next season will tell

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Brooklyn Nets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

15.75 35.9% 42.5% 5.7 4.5

In the last month of the regular season, D’Angelo Russell seemingly caught fire.

He had a triple double of 18, 11 and 13; five games of 20 or more points, including a 32-point performance vs Toronto; three games of more than 10 assists that included some eye-openers.


His numbers —15.8 points, 5.7 assists and 35.9 percent from deep— weren’t much different from his final season numbers, and were below what he was averaging when he want down in the Nets 12th game: 20.9 points, 5.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds.

Moreover, during that month, he was pulled early from a game after seven minutes, apparently due to some lousy defense and poor shot selection; had two games of no assists and another of two; and averaged fewer than two trips to the line per game.

He’s 22 and he’s inconsistent.

“Coming here he wanted a new beginning, a new start. He had high hopes. He played well for us at times, but he just has to be more consistent,” said DeMarre Carroll, his big brother. “If we can get a more consistent D’Angelo, that’d help our team a ton. He just has to come in this summer and buy in, hit the weights, do what the performance team tells him to do, live in this gym like Caris [LeVert] did last year.”

DLo of course wasn’t traded until the end of June and by the time he got settled, it was early July. This year, the workouts start now. That’s a two-and-a half-month head start over last summer.

All-Star? The Nets have only had two since they moved to Brooklyn, Brook Lopez in 2013 and Joe Johnson in 2014. But the Nets think they can mold him.

“We’ve got a long way to go, me and him,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “But he’s headed in the right direction. With each game I compare it to a rookie quarterback, second, third-year quarterback not forcing it into tight areas. His shot selection’s improving, defensively he’s getting after it. I’m just pleased. There’s a serenity to him now.”

“Serene,” of course, would not have been an adjective ascribed to him in L.A. before he was traded. Part of that evolution might be a result from moving from Hollywood to Brooklyn. Celebrity may be celebrity in both towns, but in Brooklyn, it’s low-key.

Russell gets the need for all manner of change and improvement.

“Going into the offseason I can have a better feel on what I can do to better myself. Being a young dude in the league, you don’t really know what works and what doesn’t,” he told reporters two days ago.

“Anytime a coach or anybody says anything, you’re a sponge to it. That was my mentality coming into this opportunity and organization as a new player.I just wanted to be a sponge to whatever was offered or tossed my way. So nothing bothered me — the things coaches were saying, the position they put me in. I just tried to make the best out of it.”

Sounds good. And like Jeremy Lin, he’s thinking more about his body and how to prevent injuries. That, too, is hard work.

“When you get injured it opens your eyes as far as what you can do to prevent, as far as your movements,” Russell said.

DLo has a bit of a prickly personality and it may have bothered some people at some times, including teammates, but he wants to win, like they do, something he hasn’t done in three years. His two teams in L.A. and his team in Brooklyn have won a total of 71 games, not even sniffing the playoffs.

Next year is critical for him. It’s the last season his rookie deal and he can become a free agent although he has said, repeatedly and in several ways, that he wants to play out his career in Brooklyn. Nets fans are looking for a transformative character in the team’s narrative. It would be a positive if it were him.