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D’Angelo Russell returns as Nets host Warriors

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Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets - Game Four Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Run it up. After a dispiriting loss in Washington DC on Saturday night, the Brooklyn Nets came home looking to get back on the winning track. Fortunately for them, they were able to do that and then some with an easy win against the Phoenix Suns Monday night at Barclays Center. It’s always fun to be on the right side of a blowout.

The opponent tonight will be the Golden State Warriors. It was already figuring to be a difficult season for the former champs, but injuries have made it impossible for them to have any success. It’s a year of transition for Steve Kerr’s bunch as they try to figure out what their roster will look like going forward. They lost to the Washington Wizards in DC on Monday night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 7:30.

Injuries

Kyrie Irving’s out with a knee injury. Kevin Durant, of course, is still out too , but Kristian Winfield had his mobile phone handy when KD decided to show rehab progress.

A Nets insider told NetsDaily last week that if media catches a glimpse of KD doing something that looks like a milestone, it’s unlikely that it’s the first time he’s done it ... just the first time they’ve seen it.

Or as Kenny Atkinson told reporters, “He’s been doing this. It’s been part of his rehab.”

Meanwhile, the jury —that is the front office— is still out on Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot’s future with Brooklyn.

“They’re in there. I think we’re talking about it right now,” Atkinson said during Nets practice on Tuesday. “Obviously nothing’s been decided. He’s played well for us. All-around on both sides of the ball.”

The Nets aren’t expected to make a decision on TLC’s contract until after the Thursday trade deadline.

Stephen Curry is still recovering from his hand injury and will be reevaluated in March. Klay Thompson is still out after tearing his ACL in last year’s Finals. D’Angelo Russell missed Monday’s game against the Wizards due to a quad injury but he says he’s playing.

The game

Welcome back, Caris Levert. It’s been a rough stretch for him since coming back from his thumb injury, and he finally put together a solid outing. He scored 29 points, but the most encouraging thing for him was the majority of his shot attempts came from inside the paint and the seven free throws he attempted. The Nets need another perimeter playmaker and if Levert can play like that for the rest of the season, it will be a great sign for him going forward and for the Nets as they try to hold on to a playoff spot.

The Nets ought to feast from three point range. The Warriors have had their issues defending the three point line as teams are shooting 38.2 percent from deep against them, second worst mark in the league. If Brooklyn starts off strong, they’ll have a great chance to run away with this one early.

I’m not used to Draymond Green being the old head on a team, but 2020 is weird so that’s what we’re dealing with. Green has rolled with the punches and been a steadying force in a difficult year for the team. Like everyone else on the Warriors, Green has had a difficult season, but he’s worked to be a mentor and teacher to his young teammates throughout the way. That’s still incredibly valuable in and of itself and the young guys will pick up some valuable insights as they work to get better.

Player to watch: D’Angelo Russell

Assuming he plays, DLo ought to get a hearty welcome from the Brooklyn faithful. He was a great Net during his two year stay here in Brooklyn and helped bring the team back to respectability. When he left over the summer, my man Pooch wrote a great story on Russell:

And so, the story of D’Angelo Russell in a Brooklyn Nets uniform has ended. It was fun, even electrifying but short-lived. One day we’ll all look back and evaluate whether the Nets made the right move, but for now, there’s no analytics, just a bittersweet feeling.

The Nets had been in the gutter for so long. The Nets made the Knicks look functional! When Marks and Atkinson came in, it was a low-pressure, low-expectation rebuild for the franchise. As it turned from that to the next step, things changed. He boosted the Nets and the fanbase and they boosted him. He saved the season, put Brooklyn back on his back, put Brooklyn back on the map. He had “it.”

As it so happens, Russell’s name has been floated in trade rumors again. Teams linked to the former All Star include the Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks. If the Warriors move him, they should get a nice assortment of talent coming back their way as they go about retooling their roster. If he’s still in San Francisco after the deadline, they’ll have a good player to pair with their stars and whatever reinforcements they can find next season.

According to Shams Charania, trade talks that would have moved him to Minnesota are dead for now. So will the Warriors now move on to the Knicks?

Spencer Dinwiddie will be running the show while Irving recuperates.

Meanwhile, Russell said he still follows several of his other former Nets teammates on the social-media site, called Dinwiddie “my guy” Tuesday and said Dinwiddie “should’ve been an All-Star this year.”

Dinwiddie also dismissed a report that Russell had unfollowed Instagram, saying: “I can ask him about it if you’d like. That’s the first time I’m hearing about that. Pretty sure I still follow him, so I’m solid. He’s a phenomenal player, a great teammate and last year was very special.”

Atkinson also had fond words for his former charge. “A lot of respect for him as a player, as a person. Someone I really enjoyed coaching.”

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