The last month has seen two of New York’s biggest sports stars get traded, Kristaps Porzingis from the Knicks to Mavericks and Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants to the Browns. Before that, David Villa went from NYCFC to a Japanese club.
So who is the most popular pro sports star in the city? Pooch knows...
Instagram of course is one way of judging a player’s popularity, but the Nets guard now has more IG followers than Yankee sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton COMBINED. Even the newest Jet, Le’Veon Bell, is nearly a million behind DLo. You can’t ignore that.
Nor can you avoid what will have starting this weekend, when DLo and the Nets travel to L.A. for two games, against the Clippers on Sunday and his old team, the Lakers on Friday, March 22. He’s got a long, long way to go to own Los Angeles, with LeBron James now at 44 million Instragram followers.
But Russell still has a lot of fans in LA LA Land and one would assume, considering his exit — basically shoved out the door by Magic Johnson 21 months ago. He was back last year, but he was just coming off an injury while this year, he’s just coming off an All-Star berth.
As Stefan Bondy notes Friday...
A year ago, it was different. Russell came back to Staples Center in the beginning of an injury-plagued season. The Nets weren’t very good. The NBA world was gaga over Russell’s replacement, Lonzo Ball, and pleasantly surprised by the draft pick that Russell netted in return, Kyle Kuzma.
Today, the Nets (36-33) sit sixth in the Eastern Conference while the Lakers (31-36) have waved the white flag. Russell is averaging a career-high 20.3 points and 6.8 assists on 43 percent shooting. He was named an All-Star last month.
Sweet, but in the tradition of traded players, Russell is downplaying he significance of it. You know, it’s just another game. Is there something special to his return.
“No,” he said. “Hell no.”
“I don’t think there’s anything else to be said from my part,” Russell told the Daily News. “Whatever y’all decide to cook up. Whatever quote y’all take, expand on it, good luck with it. But I don’t have any extra emotion.”
On the other hand, of course, the Nets are the sixth seed in the East’s playoff run and the Lakers have a losing record, 31-37, and Magic Johnson is being reviled for his roster building around LeBron, who will start sitting —load management, you know— to prevent any risk or injury. Lonzo Ball, the point guard Johnson wanted to build around is out for the season. By the time regular season ends next month, he will have missed 65 games in two years.
As Bondy and others have noted, DLo’s happy with New York and now New York is happy with him. When he was asked about how the Brooklyn Brigade had chanted, “Thank you, Magic,” DLo responded, “Loyal fans right there.”
No doubt he was smiling.
- D’Angelo Russell claims he’s moved on from ugly Lakers breakup, says trip to L.A. doesn’t bring ‘extra emotion’ - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Russell reflects on low point that sparked his career turnaround - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- D’Angelo Russell returns to scene of knee injury - Greg Logan - Newsday