1. Russell falls into old habits
D’Angelo Russell was named Friday as the Brooklyn Nets’ first All-Star since 2014, but against the Orlando Magic on Saturday night, he dropped back into a bad old habit of trying to be a little too cute with his passes.
Russell has 18 turnovers in his last five games and that includes his 30-point, zero-turnover masterpiece against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.
He had five turnovers against the Magic. Against the length of Orlando’s defenders, increasing the degree of difficulty of passes was a bad idea, such as trying to lob a soft pass over a defender who was eying Russell the entire play.
In the clip below, Russell dribbled into a double-team and tried to force a pass through Jonathan Isaac, a strategy that did not end well.
Two possessions later, Russell again tried to squeeze a pass to Hollis-Jefferson through a window that was swallowed by Orlando’s length.
It was part of the problem on a night when the Nets turned the ball over 19 times in all as they struggled with the Magic’s defensive looks.
Russell’s scoring was solid, with 10 points in the first quarter to help Brooklyn dig out of a 13-point hole, but the combination of poor shooting and shoddy ball-handling was too much for the Nets to overcome.
When Russell is at his best, he’s reading the floor and seeing passing lanes that are actually there. When he’s at his worst, he presses and tries to do too much — such as forcing passes into non-existent space.
He’s coming off the best month of his career in January, but the Nets will need him to remain sharp in order to continue to thrive despite multiple injuries to backcourt players Caris LeVert, Allen Crabbe and Spencer Dinwiddie.