The reviews are in and they are all positive. Sean Marks, Kenny Atkinson and his teammates all think D’Angelo Russell is doing all he can to lead the Nets ... and fulfill the potential that warranted him being taken at No. 2 in the Draft.
“He wants to be great,” Atkinson told Michael Kay on ESPN Radio. “He’s been in our gym all summer. In the NBA, it’s not an obligation. You’ve got to want to be there. So he’s been there. He’s been really working on his body. He’s got to make strides there. He’s got to get stronger. He worked on his explosiveness. But he’s proven it to me by being there every day the offseason.”
“D’Angelo, his big focus this offseason — and even towards the end of last season — was purely his health and his body and getting that right when he recovered from that knee surgery,” Marks said in a conference call with reporters. “His thing is being able to be robust and sustain an NBA season and be out on the court. That’s going to be paramount for him.”
His teammates like what they see as well.
“I’ve seen D’Angelo take considerable strides,” Joe Harris told Brian Lewis.
“Will have the best year of his career ... Both physically and mentally,” Jared Dudley tweeted a week ago about DLo.
Of course, as long as he’s healthy. As long as he is healthy. As Lewis points out Thursday...
In his first three seasons Russell, 22, has seen his games missed climb from 2 to 18 to 34, having a potential career breakthrough sabotaged by a left knee injury. After averaging 20.9 points, 5.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds in his first dozen Nets games, arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies forced him to miss the next 32.
And he’s had problems with both knees. Last season, it was his left knee. His last season in L.A., it was his right. He needed PRP treatments, missing 11 games in on stretch. At age 22, that’s got to be concerning. Marks thinks there are ways around those issues.
“As he moves forward, he needs to create those habits and take care of his body,” said the GM. “And I think people will be pretty surprised when they see what he’s done. He’s worked extremely hard on purely that, strengthening up his body and so forth.”
Marks has also been making strides, seeing his role as a leader, working with Dzanan Musa for example. Right after the Draft, Russell invited Musa to his apartment to play video games and talk hoops. Musa, who made his first trip to the U.S. in June, has been impressed by the time and advice, on and off the court, DLo has imparted.
“I’m the rookie,” said Musa of DLo’s invitation. “That was a really nice gesture from him.”
Since then, the two have been working out at HSS Training Center, mentor and protege’.
“He’s a superstar and when a superstar calls you as a rookie to come to your house to talk to you and be his friend, that’s a really human, good thing about him,’’ Musa told the Post last weekend. “He’s a really nice person, really good player. I look forward to playing with him.’’
“Superstar” may be a bit of an exaggeration now, two months before the season begins. But if the Nets are going to win games this season and woo free agents this summer, Russell will need to get close to that level. He wants it and he wants it in Brooklyn. That’s for sure, as he told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated back in May.
“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.”
- D’Angelo Russell, and his knees, will guide Nets’ 2018-19 plans - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Why the Nets refuse to tank this season and how they plan to land free agents in 2019 - Michael Scotto - The Athletic New York