Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell has returned to peak form since his undergoing knee surgery. Now healthy, he’ll see year one a proper finish.
From that, the Nets finally have their next star, and he’s reminding us of that in the final stretch of the season.
Russell’s arrival in Brooklyn was met with high anticipation. The Nets rebuild was officially kicking into high gear, and the works of former GM Billy King were being wiped from memory.
In the former Lakers’ guard, Brooklyn was taking a risk, one that could tentatively have an impact on the locker room. Russell came with baggage in the form of team drama, as he reportedly broke up the relationship of former teammate Nick Young.
For the Nets, it’s proved a risk worth taking.
From the jump, Russell made his presence known. He averaged 21.7 points, 5.0 assists, and 4.1 rebounds in the month of October.
Yet before the Nets could finally work towards something greater, Russell underwent arthroscopic knee surgery, sidelining him for 33 games total.
It was certainly a buzzkill to the fans’ first drink in years, and many wondered if he would even return within the season. Brooklyn went 11-22 in his absence, though we saw growth in backup guard Spencer Dinwiddie and rookie Jarrett Allen.
Russell’s first game back would be January 19th, in a win over the Miami Heat. The Nets played some good basketball, despite the guard’s 0-for-5 performance from the field.
Though his leadership, or lack thereof was criticized by Magic Johnson, Russell had become just that. A leader.
It hasn’t amounted to much, however, as Brooklyn’s gone a mere 5-22 since his return.
And while that isn’t very uplifting, Russell’s individual play has been enough to keep fans optimistic.
His breakthrough game arrived in a February loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Russell scored 25 points on 9-for-18 shooting and led the Nets to a close 129-123 loss in Cleveland.
Since, he’s averaging 16.7 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.7 rebounds in the month of March. Including a 32-point performance in a loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors.
His seven three-pointers in the first quarter would hold historical value. It’s the most by any player in the NBA this season, and the fifth most by any player in a quarter in league history.
Ironically, Russell’s career-game would come the following Friday, in a rematch with Toronto. He recorded his first career triple-double with 18 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes.
The first Nets’ triple-double since Terrance Williams in 2010 was a full display of Russell’s bag of tricks.
Head coach Kenny Atkinson told Brian Lewis of the New York Post his point guard was doing it all.
“He was good on the defensive end. Obviously, came back and rebounded, and competed and then controlled the game. He had command of that game. That’s such a relief as a coach, when you have a guy that knows what he wants, knows where guys are.”
Russell told the Lewis it may have been foreshadowing for what’s to come.
“A lot of our games come down to that one play. I think good karma is coming our way. We just need to stay competitive and stay locked in these last few games.”
It’s a sign of what could have been, and likely what’s to come.
Fans will never know the true ceiling for this season due to Russell’s injury, but can rest easy behind his recent play, and what it means for the immediate future.
Guess who’s back, back again. ‘Dloading’ is back, tell a friend.