Brooklyn Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell couldn’t have done much more to make his case for a spot in the All-Star Game with a stellar performance Tuesday.
By the next time the Brooklyn Nets take the floor, the reserves for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game will have already been announced.
Tuesday night was D’Angelo Russell‘s final game before those selections are made public on Thursday and he made an eloquent case why he should get strong consideration for one of those final seven spots from the Eastern Conference.
Russell shook off a poor-shooting first half and finished with 30 points, seven assists and three steals in the Nets’ 122-117 victory over the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center, scoring 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting in the second half.
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Russell also played turnover-free in 36 minutes against the Bulls and got himself to the foul line a season-high 10 times, making eight.
Named Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Jan. 21, Russell is making a strong case for Player of the Month honors with his stellar play in January. In 14 games this month, the 22-year-old has led the Nets to an 11-3 record while averaging 23.7 points and 7.1 assists per game.
He’s also shot 48.9 percent in January while canning 42 percent from 3-point range and 86.7 percent from the line in 30.4 minutes per game.
It’s part of a breakout season for the former No. 2 overall pick during which he’s averaging 19.5 points, 6.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 29.6 minutes per game while shooting 44 percent overall and 37.6 percent from deep.
The scoring and assists are career-highs, as are his shooting numbers — which include an 81.1 percent mark from the line.
He’s also healthy for the first time since his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2015-16, starting 51 of Brooklyn’s 52 games. The one game he missed was when he was rested in the second game of a road back-to-back in late December.
Veteran DeMarre Carroll is convincent of Russell’s All-Star credentials.
His big night against the Bulls came 24 hours after he was benched for the final 8:42 of Monday’s road loss to the Boston Celtics after coach Kenny Atkinson yanked him for some lapses on the defensive glass.
Given Russell’s reputation upon his arrival in Brooklyn from the Lakers in June 2017, one could only imagine how controversial such a move could have been.
Except it wasn’t.
Narratives can be difficult to change and Russell is still battling the perception that he is difficult to coach, is a poor teammate and has bad work habits.
Atkinson has repeatedly said that absolutely none of those things are true and was glowing about Russell before Tuesday’s game when asked about the benching Monday night.
For his part, Russell took accountability for the incident as well.
Russell’s improvement this season is a credit to the work he did in the offseason and also is another example of the work Atkinson can do with young point guards.
As an assistant coach, he mentored Jeremy Lin with the New York Knicks and helped turn Jeff Teague into an All-Star with the Atlanta Hawks. Since Atkinson has been in Brooklyn, Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Shabazz Napier have all made significant strides.
Whether or not D’Angelo Russell is named an All-Star Thursday night, he’s done a whale of a job this season getting himself into that elite-level conversation.