Opportunity and Change of Scenery Set the Stage for D’Angelo Russell’s Breakout Year
Prior to this season the only thing that the former No.2 overall pick of the 2015 NBA draft D’Angelo Russell was known for was his infamous “snitching” incident that cost his then-teammate of the Los Angeles Lakers Nick Young his relationship with famous Australian born rapper Iggy Azalea. That cast a black cloud over the former Ohio State Buckeye during the early going of his career as he was dubbed a bad teammate for exposing Young’s infidelity via social media and a bust after not hitting the ground running during his first few seasons in the league. He and Timofey Mozgov were traded to the Brooklyn Nets on June 20, 2017, and Lakers fans and team affiliates basically said good riddance. However, after being named to the All-Star team and leading the Nets to a highly improbable comeback over the Sacramento Kings last in which his team were trailing as many as 28 points at one point in the second half, he’s making all of his haters and doubters eat every morsel of their disparaging words now that he is capitalizing on his opportunity in Brooklyn. Russell dropped 44 points in last night’s contest and a whopping 27 in the fourth quarter alone. The Nets were viewed as dead in the water at the end of the third quarter and entered final stanza of the game down 25 points. He was unstoppable and seemingly unguardable in the last 12 minutes of the game as he led the miracle comeback with his lethal three-point shooting as the team clawed their way back from the brink and ended up winning 123-121 as they outscored the visiting Kings 45-18 in the final quarter. The fourth-year point guard/shooting guard has finally found his footing in the league this year and has shed his label of a bust and is being referred to as a late bloomer at just 23 years old. Being taken with the No.2 overall pick puts a lot of pressure on a teenager who spent just one year in college, isn’t even old enough to drink alcohol legally but is expected to dominate grown men right away. He isn’t physically gifted in the way that the Zion Williamson, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lebron James of the world but he is enjoying a career year this season. He is averaging career highs in both points per game with 20.7 and overall shooting percentage with .432, especially from behind the arc with a .366 average. Russell believes that being traded away from the now woefully underperforming Los Angeles Lakers, who could use a talent like him in the worst way as they fight for their fading playoffs chances, was the best thing that could have happened for his young career. “If [the Lakers] didn’t let me go then, they were gonna let me go now, and I’d be going through what they’re going through. Best thing that happened in my career,” said Russell back in February.
The Nets are currently the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference standings with a record of 37-36 and if the playoffs started today they'd be in unlike the Lakers who are currently the 11th seed in the Western Conference with a record of 31-40 and would be on the outside looking in if the postseason were to start today.