Evaluating D’Angelo Russell’s Play Since Returning From Injury

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 10: Kenny Atkinson of the Brooklyn Nets has a conversation with D'Angelo Russell
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 10: Kenny Atkinson of the Brooklyn Nets has a conversation with D'Angelo Russell /

Last month, D’Angelo Russell returned to the Brooklyn Nets after having arthroscopic knee surgery on his left knee in November. The knee injury kept him sidelined for two months.

Prior to his injury, Russell was off to a fast start for the Brooklyn Nets. He averaged 20.9 points, 5.7 assists, and 4.7 rebounds in 27.8 minutes during the team’s first 12 games.

Upon returning, Russell was put in an unfamiliar role. He has come off the bench in every game and has not reclaimed his position as the team’s starting point guard.

Another thing he hasn’t reclaimed since returning has been his performance. He’s averaging just 10.8 points, 3.6 assists, 2.8 rebounds in 20.4 minutes off the bench. And his shooting percentage is even worse. Russell is shooting just 36.9 percent from the field and a horrid 25 percent from three. For comparison, he was shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 30 percent from three prior to his injury.

These struggles are to be expected from someone returning from such a knee surgery in only two months time. Luckily for Russell, he has a teammate who can empathize with him.

In 2016, DeMarre Carroll needed arthroscopic knee surgery when he was playing for the Toronto Raptors. The injury kept Carroll out for three months. Like Russell, Carroll did not shoot well and struggled putting up numbers when he returned.

MUST READ: The Nets are still improving despite losing 13/15

Carroll has spoken with Russell and has mentored him throughout his return. Carroll was never able to get on track in Toronto and it took him until the trade to Brooklyn to revitalize his career.

While they understand it’s a process, the Nets hope that it doesn’t take as long for Russell to get back on track as it did for Carroll. But they’ve definitely taken it slow with him. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson has had Russell on a minutes restriction since his return and has only veered from it sparingly.

In the 13 games he’s played since returning, Russell has played 20-plus minutes only six times and 30-plus minutes only once, which was a double-overtime contest against New Orleans. While he’s been rusty and struggled mightily with his shot, he has slowly started to perform better over the last few games. In Brooklyn’s last three contests, Russell has scored 21, 16, and 18 points respectively. He even dished out nine assists in their last game against the Pacers.

Russell will return to his high level of play. It’s going to take some time. It might not happen until next year. But he’s too good to keep playing at this level. He’ll come out of it and be an exciting player for the Brooklyn Nets to build around in the coming years.