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Real recognize real, starring D’Angelo Russell and the NBA

“Hey now, you’re an All-Star, get your game on, go play”

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The optimism about changing things around actually started two years ago.

To make a long story short – since many of you know it already (or could educate yourselves here) – it was when D’Angelo Russell arrived. The prodigal from the freeways emerging from the depths of a Brooklyn subway stop.

Then a talented, potential packed 21-year-old, the Louisville, Kentucky native arrived from the Lakers after two turbulent seasons out west, before Magic Johnson gave up on him in favor of Lonzo Ball. (How’s that working out?)

Since this past January, Russell’s reminded the NBA what many saw leading up to the 2015 NBA Draft, where he was ultimately taken second overall after Karl Anthony-Towns and eventual third overall selection Jahlil Okafor.

Here’s what Russell did from October to December of this season. (Caris LeVert’s injury was on November 12. The Nets hit rock bottom on December 6 when both they and the Knicks clocked in at 8-18.)

And here’s what Russell’s done since January. (LeVert returned on February 8, while Spencer Dinwiddie missed time from January 24 until March 1.)

Russell is currently living up to the potential he displayed at Ohio State as a consensus First-Team All-American, and as a high profile high schooler. In 2014, represented himself and Monteverde Academy – where he played with Ben Simmons, among others – in the prestigious McDonald’s All-American game.

As the Nets continue their climb toward playoff contention, long removed from the Andrea Bargnani abyss, Russell’s being talked about as the perhaps the NBA’s Most Improved Player. He’s also only a month removed from being the organization’s first All-Star since Joe Johnson in 2014.

And the NBA is well-aware of not only Russell’s arrival to stardom, but his progress from the infamous (and overplayed) snitch label.

Things, of course, went to high gear on Tuesday when he brought the Nets back from a 28-point deficit with a career-high 44-point effort, his third 40+ game this season.

Indeed, D’Angelo Russell and the Nets led First Take, SportsCenter (at one point), the Stephen A Smith Show, High Noon and he was also on the “A block” for others, like Around The Horn, Highly Questionable and Pardon The Interruption (PTI) later in the day.

Some quotables.

“I was a believer of his coming into the draft. I’ll never forget – this is the wildest thing in retrospect – he (Russell) was sitting there doing Highly Questionable with me and Dan (Le Batard). I was like, ‘Wow, this young man seems really mature.’ Except, then the probably supposedly was a lack of maturity, you know, the one thing, and then the mistake he ended up making. He is built for this. The question had been ‘how good of a player is he?’ And honestly, he’s better than he was in L.A. – not terribly better because he’s getting more shots – but, these kind of shots, he wants them,” – Bomani Jones.

“Last night (against the Sacramento Kings) is that kind of moment where you go from All-Star to star. And out of respect for what this young man is doing, there’s potential for what he can be. But when we talk about stars coming to New York – I know the Nets aren’t the Knicks – but put some respect on this young man’s name and his game. There’s a star already in New York, he just doesn’t play for the Knicks,” – Michael Smith.

“It’s possible D’Lo would have never developed into a star without the wake-up call for being traded. It’s also possible the team culture of Brooklyn is just a much better incubator than what’s going on in L.A., which is its own separate problem. But it also seems clear that Russell is an example of what can go wrong in a time where everyone is dying to be early. Or, when we consider a kid who is just coming into his own at age 23, a late bloomer,” – Rachel Nichols.

Here’s more from The Jump, where Tracy McGrady also offered his analysis of Russell’s emergence.

And of course, let’s clear the runway for Stephen A.

ESPN also put together a piece, featuring Russell and the team, which premiered on Tuesday.

Then, we have Russell’s peers, beginning with thee peer: LeBron James, whom the Nets knocked out of playoff contention on Friday night.

Russell also toasted The King, out of respect and gratitude.

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Role Models

A post shared by D'Angelo Russell (@dloading) on

We have also Dwayne Wade, who exchanged jerseys with Russell after the Nets got blown out by the Miami Heat on March 2. Wade’s only exchanged jerseys with an exclusive club of NBA players in what he says will be his final season.

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Wow who would of thought? #LastDance

A post shared by D'Angelo Russell (@dloading) on

Wade also spoke to Russell during All-Star Weekend, captured by multiple camera crews, noticeably rhetorically asking the young Net, “You know you’re one of the best in the game, right?”

And then there’s Kevin Durant, who is now in the media despite possessing a convoluted relationship with said media. Russell give KD a virtual tour the city of Brooklyn in an upcoming series called “Fly By”, where his company named “Thirty Five Ventures” has relocated, and the tour will be orchestrated by Russell.

There are many others who have recognized Russell’s become a star this season. There are others who saw it formulating in 2015 as well, including D’Lo himself.

With a likely playoff berth on the horizon, his and the team’s profile will only continue to ascend, which will be meaningful for what is expected to be the most important summer in the Sean Marks-Kenny Atkinson – Markinson – era.

So, in July, one way or another, D’Angelo Russell will become D’Angelo Ru$$ell.

As often said in pre-gentrified New York City: Real recognize real.