D’Angelo Russell doesn’t think his former head coach, Kenny Atkinson, knew what he was capable of while they were with the Brooklyn Nets.
D’Angelo Russell was the most popular example of the “culture” built by the Brooklyn Nets. After a disappointing stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, Russell was shipped to Brooklyn where he emerged as an All-Star under the tutelage of then-head coach Kenny Atkinson.
But hold on one second. Russell still feels like Atkinson only went to him after his first options were exhausted according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
“I’m not going to give it to Kenny,” he said via The Athletic. “I still don’t think he knew what he had, honestly. I don’t think he knew what I was capable of in the fourth quarter.”
Injuries to Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie meant that Russell would be the undoubted No. 1 scoring option. Once he did, his game took off and he carried the Nets into the playoffs.
Even after Russell’s All-Star ascension had already begun, he wasn’t always on the floor in crunch time. Atkinson wasn’t afraid to shake things up with a different lineup if he felt it could lead to a win.
As the 2019-20 season progressed, benching Russell became less frequent because of how well he was playing. Still, Atkinson would bench anyone for a bad defensive lapse or poor shot selection, Russell included.
It’s easy to understand why Russell would feel slighted by a benching in the fourth quarter of a close game. Most All-Stars aren’t riding the pine with the game on the line.