It was just two years ago D’Angelo Russell was the number two pick in the NBA draft. The Los Angeles Lakers had high hopes for a bright future with Russell, however it didn’t take long for those hopes to turn into faded pictures.
Inconsistent play, along with fallout from video of a private conversation with teammate Nick Young going public, only made it harder for the Lakers to justify Russell as a key to their future. The emergence of Lonzo Ball as an option for Magic Johnson’s first draft pick as team president sealed the deal for Russell’s departure.
While the Lakers were pinning their future on Russell two years ago, the Brooklyn Nets were finishing a 21-61 season. Players were let go, coaches were fired, and general managers were — reassigned. The Nets followed that up with another 62-loss campaign this past season.
The rebuild is in full swing for the Nets and, with limited options to upgrade, they have to remain creative in pursuing young talent to help build a new foundation. That means when a 21-year old talent, like Russell, becomes available you do your due diligence to bring him in.
Getting Russell, along with former Knick Timofey Mozgov, cost the Nets Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in this year’s draft. The Nets will miss Lopez, he was the face of their franchise, a class act, and the team’s all-time leading scorer. With all of that, it was time to part ways. Nets general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson rolled the dice on Russell and the timing couldn’t have been better.
D’Angelo Russell, The Nets, And The Chip On His Shoulder
Johnson, while thanking Russell for his time and service, also emphasized he needs a team leader. It’s one thing when your employer calls you out in front of everyone, but it stings that much more when that employer also happens to be an NBA legend.
“I think he’s got a little bit of a chip on his shoulder,” Atkinson said about his new point guard. “I can see that already. I don’t think he’s boasting about that. He even said, ‘I’m not trying to prove people wrong. I’m trying to control my situation.’
“But it shows by being in the gym and his hunger to get better. I kind of like that there’s a little bit of a chip there.”
That chip on Russell’s shoulder should stay there for at least the next ten years. If that serves as fuel for the fire then so be it.
Russell has the right mindset in worrying only about what he can control. The Nets, in Atkinson, have one of the best developmental coaches in the game. It’ll be intriguing to see how he plans to use Russell in his up-tempo offense.
Opportunity is knocking for D’Angelo Russell to put the past behind him. He can start fresh with a team that’s ready to give him every tool necessary to succeed.