Entering the final year of his rookie deal, D’Angelo Russell is unlikely to get an extension from the Brooklyn Nets. That means he’s playing for both the Nets’ present and his own future.
Russell has the support, athleticism, and basketball IQ, but can he stay healthy this year? When Michael Kay asked coach Kenny Atkinson about Russell’s progression this offseason, he said (via the New York Post:
"“He’s been in our gym all summer. In the NBA, it’s not an obligation. You’ve got to want to be there. So he’s been there. He’s been really working on his body. He’s got to make strides there. He’s got to get stronger. He worked on his explosiveness.“But he’s proven it to me by being there every day the offseason.”"
What matters most about what Atkinson had to say is that DLo is treating his body with extra care this offseason, proving that he truly wants to be great.
Upstairs from the front office, general manager Sean Marks said:
"“D’Angelo, his big focus this offseason — and even towards the end of last season — was purely his health and his body and getting that right when he recovered from that knee surgery,”"
Marks went on to say in the same conference call that it is paramount for Russell to play the full season without sustaining any injuries this year.
What goes largely over the heads of NBA fans is Russell’s age and the experience he already has. At only 22 years old, despite the injuries, Russell has seen significant playing time in the NBA, both as a role player in L.A. and as the go-to guy in Brooklyn.
This is so important to the progression of Russell’s career as a Net, because he will guide younger players as they enter the league, coming off the bench just as he did with the Lakers.
Not only has Russell seen both sides of this coin, but he has already put it into practice by inviting Dzanan Musa over to his Brooklyn home to help him acclimate to his new way of life. Musa was touched, per NBA.com:
"“I’m the rookie,. That was a really nice gesture from him.”"
This leadership is what will take the Nets places. This leadership will establish a new culture in the Nets facilities. Lastly, this leadership from the 22-year -ld will carry the Nets to playoff contention.
Russell is not afraid of the bright lights of Brooklyn or the breaking news from the New York media, all he cares about is meshing a young team as a leader, and staying healthy. The Nets have established that in clutch time, the ball is in Russell’s hands.
He’s got ice in his veins and we’re ready to see him lead the young Nets to the playoffs in the near future.