D’Angelo Russell walked inside a full theater in Manhattan, looked at who was in attendance, then thanked everyone for coming out to his short film called “The Path to the Cap”.
The moment was significant in many ways, leaving little doubt that, despite an injury-ridden season, DLo’s profile is rising as fans wait for a comeback season from the 22-year-old.
For openers, Russell is extremely marketable, particularly in the hip Brooklyn market. His personality is cool. Fans and players gravitate to him just for that alone. However, it’s not just marketing. The Nets trust in his future with the organization ... and are saying so.
In fact, DLo has been everywhere. In the past couple of weeks, DLo’s received a whole lot of love. As mentioned, New Era made a short film on his journey. It showed scenes with his family, his adolescence, different stages of basketball and his days leading to the draft.
Days later, he participated in Steve Nash’s annual soccer game with other NBA and professional soccer players from all around the world. Teammate Spencer Dinwiddie was on the other team while Joel Embiid was one of the coaches.
Next day, there he was again, at the NBA Draft, Russell was shown on the big board at Barclays several times during the night, roaming the arena and talking with Donovan Mitchell.
The Nets social media account got a couple words from him, too.
Most importantly, though, Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson have been talking up Russell and his gifts. Of late, they’ve made that clear in a lot of different ways. While they refuse to say there’s a “face” of the franchise, D’Angelo is the first one that comes to peoples’ minds when discussing the Nets.
Also of late, we’re seeing more of that face and hearing more mentions of him in discussions of the team and its future.
In a video posted on the Brooklyn Nets social accounts, he was seen watching draft workouts seated next to Marks. It means something when your coaching staff and general manager want you around to help evaluate things around the workplace. It goes to his maturity as well as their trust.
“I like to sit in and support the organization and a lot of the guys I played with,” Russell told NetsDaily. “Most of the guys I played with just graduated this year so they’re coming in and out of these workouts and I like to show face.”
As for his game – it’s no secret that Marks and Atkinson are extremely high on the 22-year-old. And that might be an understatement.
When talking to insiders about his game they often get giddy, particularly about his court vision. It’s clear they see him as a primary ball handler, something Atkinson emphasized when he returned from injury late in the season.
When discussing his development, Marks and Atkinson never question his skillset. They want to see his body improve so that he can stay on the court and remain healthy throughout the season.
“I don’t think people realize how big he is. He’s a big guard, he’s a long guard and he has great vision,” Atkinson told Mike Francesa on WFAN Friday. “His development is going to be his body. Can he get stronger, improve his body and improve his defense? He’s a talented, talented guy. He’s got a lot of time to grow and we’re thrilled to have him,”
Marks kept it brief when he was also asked about DLo on Friday, but the commonality between GM and coach shows how highly they think of him.
“I can’t question his basketball skills and IQ, because they’re at a different level,” Marks told Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno of WFAN.
Russell might not be an All-Star yet, but it certainly feels that way. He’s the guy around Brooklyn. You can make a case for Jarrett Allen or any of the other prospects on the team, but it seems pretty clear that the former No. 2 overall pick is going to headline this rebuild.
Is his higher profile planned or just incidental? Hard to tell. Does it matter? We hardly got a chance to see what he was capable as he sat most of the season, but it was awfully fun when he did.
His profile is on the rise and what happens if the Nets start making some noise behind his lead? Fuhgeddaboudit.