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As free agency approaches, D’Angelo Russell prepared to wait

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Brooklyn Nets v Sacramento Kings Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Nets free agency picture is likely to be confused and contradictory. With so many moving parts and rumors, fans should be prepared for a lot of change. The players say they are.

An example: a month ago, Adrian Wojnarowski suggested that the Nets will want to get D’Angelo Russell’s contract out of the way early. On the day after DLo’s marijuana citation, Woj told Michelle Beadle...

“He’s been a model citizen for the Nets. He made his first all-star team this year, really helped will that team to the post-season and really doesn’t have a history of legal trouble. He’s going to be sought after as a restricted free agent and the Nets are going to really try to go the distance here to try to get a deal done with him even before he gets out into the market place.

But that’s not how Russell sees things. In an exclusive interview with Brian Lewis (from Spain), the Nets restricted free agent said he thinks the Nets would first have to get over their pursuit of big-time free agents before they turn to him.

“It’s more of just the waiting game as far as chess moves have to be made. There’s a lot of big fish out there that have to find their destinations so I think I’ll [fall in line after that].

“There are a lot of fish out there that need to find destinations. So whenever that time comes then I have decisions to make on my own, I think I’ll be well ready for it.”

That doesn’t sound like a firm commitment from either side is yet on the table. The Nets of course have been linked to virtually every one of the big free agents this summer: from Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, with Irving considered the most likely, at least according to the latest rumors.

In his interview with Lewis, Russell seemed to hope for as few changes as possible, but that’s not likely despite the Nets progress last season. And being the loyal soldier, he said he’d enjoy playing with Irving, who by all accounts is someone he knows and respects.

“If we’re being completely honest, I enjoyed the team that we had this whole season. If the situation was to come up to have pieces of his caliber around, it’ll make us a better team obviously. But I’m not going to say I didn’t enjoy our team, and the pieces we had around.”

As Lewis notes, DLo may just being courteous to Joe Harris who was standing near him during the telephone interview ... and who would be displaced in the starting line-up if the six-time all-Star, NBA champion and Olympic gold medalist joined Brooklyn.

Both Lewis and Anthony Puccio, writing for SNY, have reported that the Nets believe they can pair Russell and Irving in the backcourt, something that the only person who’s coached both of them (in high school) believes as well.

There’s a little less than three weeks before free agency begins on July 1. The Nets will try to free up more cap space between now and then, presumably finding a team that will take on Allen Crabbe’s expiring $18.5 million contract. That is most likely to take place around the Draft on June 20. Then, it will get very, very serious. Jared Dudley thinks that once the Nets commit to Russell —if they do— things will fall into place.

“Young players, when you’re rewarded — especially financially — it’s easier. D-Lo getting his contact, it’s easier. … You don’t have to average 20 to make All-Star, because you have Kawhi or KD you’re going to be a top 2 or 3 seed. Now if you average 16, your assists need to go up. It’s a good problem to have. Ask them, they’d take those guys any day.”

One thing that won’t change. July 1 (actually 6 p.m. June 30) is coming and with it, anxiety for everyone involved, from the front office to the players to the fans. Hold onto you butts.