D’Angelo Russell said all the right words at his introductory press conference Monday. Now the Brooklyn Nets need their new guard, and former Los Angeles Laker, to back those words up with action.
The Nets, so far, have to like what they’re seeing from the young man they traded away the face of their franchise for. Russell, after having his lack of leadership skills called out by Lakers president Magic Johnson, has plenty to prove and it appears he’s more than ready for the task.
“It’s good to be here,” Russell said. “Can’t really control that – what they say. I’m gone. So it’s the past. I’m here now. It’s irrelevant, honestly.”
If you’re Nets general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson, that’s exactly what you want to hear from the potential future of your franchise.
If there’s any young NBA player ready to prove his critics wrong, it should be Russell. The 21-year old has a full plate worth of reasons to satisfy the hunger he might currently be feeling as he gets started with a new chapter in Brooklyn.
Having an NBA Legend, who’s now your employer, call you out is one thing. For Russell, however, it was so much more than that which signaled the end was near for Russell’s time as a Laker.
There was of course the well-publicized issue involving Russell and now ex-teammate Nick Young which rubbed some around the NBA the wrong way on if Russell could be trusted in the locker room.
But that was then and this is now. Russell is right about one thing – it’s the past and whatever happened during his time with the Lakers is exactly that, in the past.
The young and rebuilding Nets stand as the beneficiaries if Russell can step up and deliver for them. Brooklyn is a team looking to strategically improve their roster through creative signings and the occasional trade, at least until they’re back at full strength with draft picks.
The acquisition of Russell from the Lakers, along with center Timofey Mozgov for Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in this year’s draft, gave them their closest feeling to landing a top five prospect off the draft board. Russell was drafted by the Lakers, in 2015, with the second overall pick.
In Russell, the Nets get a young building block with the potential to become the face of the team. It’ll be up to the developmental skills of Atkinson, along with the drive of Russell, to maximize that potential.
“I just can’t wait to get this team back where it’s supposed to be,” said Russell. “We’ve got a lot of young talent, including myself, we’ve got great vets sprinkled in there, and a coach that’s really hungry. When we put that together, it’s going to be something special.”
It certainly appears as if Russell did his homework and quickly assessed what he’s walking into. If he finds his way in Atkinson’s up-tempo motion offense just as quickly, the Nets will find themselves in pretty good shape.
There’s plenty of time to figure out how Russell will look on the court with Jeremy Lin and Caris Levert. In the meanwhile, Russell is hungry to take the next step and start a new chapter. The Nets are exactly the team for him and at the right time.