It’s secure the bag time for D'Angelo Russell.
Drafted No. 2 overall, the Lakers liked him but didn’t love him and were ready to move on after a couple of seasons (and drafting Lonzo Ball), so they sent Russell to the Nets as a sweetener to dump Timofey Mozgov‘s contract. The Nets think they have something in Russell if he can stay healthy and his game matures.
Russell seems to get it’s now time for him, he’s motivated, and he’s putting in the work. Russell spoke to Michael Scotto of The Athletic.
“I’m in the greatest place ever, honestly,” Russell told The Athletic. “Like you said, motivation. I see my best friend [Devin Booker] sign a max deal. I know where we came from, so that’s plenty motivation that I need. I wake up every morning and go to train, and I feel like I’m in the best shape. I don’t know. The sky is the limit.”
Both Russell and his coach, Kenny Atkinson, talked about Russell’s commitment to getting in better shape, being more physically ready for the challenges of the NBA grind. That’s certainly part of it (and after a few years in the league is when a lot of players start to realize they need to focus more on eating right, working out more efficiently, and the rest). That conditioning can help him stay healthy and on the court, something that’s key to him getting paid anywhere near where he wants next summer.
The other part of that is being a leader, on and off the court. That did not happen in Los Angeles (remember the Nick Young photo incident?), he was not a beloved figure in that locker room. Brooklyn was a clean slate. Russell has to show he’s made the most of it. And he has to put up buckets.
In theory, the Nets could talk contract extension — like Booker got — with Russell up to the start of the season. In reality, that’s not happening unless Russell wants to take a very team friendly deal. The Nets are willing to let this play out and let the market decide his worth as a restricted free agent next summer.
“That’s not something I can control, so I just want to play, to be honest,” Russell said of his extension deadline coming up. “That’s really been my main focus. Staying healthy and finishing the season on a positive note. As a team, there’s a lot that we can really work on. Those have really been outweighing my thoughts on an extension and all of that.”
Nothing motivates players quite like the next contract. That could mean a big season for Russell, who is saying all the right things heading into training camp.