From 21-year-old castoff to All-Star, D’Angelo Russell has come a long way in a short time. If it’s up to him, he’d prefer to continue his growth in Brooklyn.
The Nets point guard, now 23 and set to become a restricted free agent this summer, expressed his desire to remain with the Nets during exit interviews in Brooklyn on Wednesday, one day after the Philadelphia 76ers eliminated his team from the first round of the playoffs in five games. He knows, however, that any number of things could prevent him from coming back, including potential trades or opportunities with other teams.
“I definitely want to be here, but I also know it’s a business too,” Russell said. “… I don’t know what could possibly happen. Say somebody comes here [in a trade] that I have to be a part of to get them, I know that could be a possibility, so I just want to stay in this moment and not speak too soon about anything.”
Russell, a former No. 2 overall pick who two years ago came to the Nets in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, recalled advice he received from a legendary former teammate that influenced his mindset.
"I talked to Kobe [Bryant] once, and I remember him saying, ‘Make new headlines. Whatever your old headline is or what people think about you, make new ones,’ " Russell said. "I took pride in doing that, and just went out there and [tried] to let basketball make headlines for me instead of my physical me.”
Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson has had a huge impact on the success of Russell, something not lost on the pending free agent.
“The growth in relationships, genuine relationships is a beautiful thing to be honest,” Russell said. “I take pride in creating genuine relationships with people that genuinely care about you, and coach is one of the most genuine care guys. Man, he’s a great dude, and I thank him as much as I can just for giving me the opportunity to come over here and be me and learn how to be a better me at the same time, and he gave me the guidance.”
The Nets beat preseason expectations to earn the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and end a four-year postseason drought. Majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov released a statement through the team via Twitter on Wednesday after the season came to an end to credit his team for overachieving.
"You’ve put in the sweat, and it paid off with a playoff spot when few believed we would get there,” Prokhorov said. “More importantly, it’s clear that the Nets are a team building a winning culture, and our future is bright. So, enjoy a good rest."