What a difference a season or two can make in a professional sports career. The latest example of this would be former Los Angeles Lakers point guard, D’Angelo Russell. In a trade that caught the entire NBA completely off guard, Russell was shipped to the Brooklyn Nets (along with teammate Tomofey Mozgov) for Nets center Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in the 2017 NBA draft. In his two seasons with the Lakers, Russell became a controversial figure among his NBA peers. The now infamous video recording of his ex-teammate, Nick Young, who was admitting to cheating on his then fiancée, Iggy Azalea, sent what could have been a very promising Lakers career into a tailspin that D’Angelo Russell never quite recovered from.
But it wasn’t only his off-court follies that ultimately spelled his doom in Lakers land; his on court relationship with coach Byron Scott also raised eyebrows. Byron Scott consistently benched Russell during the point guard’s rookie season citing Russell’s immaturity as huge reason why. Scott, an old school coach, felt that this humbling process would be important in Russell’s maturation. Russell struggled often on the defensive end, while on offense his decision-making left a lot to be desired for a player given the reigns to run such an important franchise like the powerhouse Los Angeles Lakers. Even though Russell and Byron Scott butted heads, it was clear that Russell possessed great talent that would flash for everyone to see. But that was not enough for incoming president of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson. Thus, Magic shipped the former #2 overall picks to Brooklyn for what seemed like a very low return even with the Lakers getting Mozgov’s terrible contract off their books to free up cap space for more coveted free agents in the future. The trade to the Nets may have come as a blessing in disguise for Brooklyn. The Nets are in a rebuilding phase themselves, and can use all the young talent they can get because they are bereft of draft picks themselves. Former General Manager, Billy King, left the Nets in shambles.
Incoming GM Sean Marks was left with a bloated salary cap, little to no draft picks, and a future that seemed hopeless for years to come. But with the moves that Marks has made in lowering the cap and shipping players off while bringing cheap young talent, things seem to be headed in a more positive direction for the Nets. Marks worked for a world-class organization like the San Antonio Spurs prior to being hired to the Nets gig. And so far in his tenure as Nets GM, he has shown that the brilliance of the Spurs is not lost on him or his duties. One of Marks best moves so far has been the hiring of head coach Kenny Atkinson. Atkinson is a player’s coach who builds relationships with all of his players; and looks to develop them. Atkinson is the type of coach that can get to a young player like D’Angelo. It would not be a bit surprising if they build a strong relationship. D’Angelo Russell is an extremely talented player, and we are looking forward to head coach Kenny Atkinson helping him grow into the star he once seemed poised to be in purple and gold.