Nets D'Angelo Russell starts 23 with a bang - Metro US

Nets D’Angelo Russell starts 23 with a bang

D'Angelo Russell. (Photo: Getty Images)
If his birthday on Saturday night indicated anything, it’s that 23 is going to be just as fruitful a year as 22 was for Brooklyn Nets All-Star D’Angelo Russell. 
The point guard continues his ascension as one of the premier talents in the league in his second season with the Nets, dropping 40 points over the weekend in Charlotte against the Hornets. He took over in the final minutes of a nail-biting 117-115 victory — one he deemed a “must-win” affair — scoring Brooklyn’s final 12 points of the night that included the game-winning three-pointer with 39.8 seconds remaining. 
Russell’s heroics on the same floor he made his first-ever All-Star Game appearance just a week ago, ensured the Nets stayed alone in sixth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race, extending their lead to two games over the Hornets, who currently hold the final postseason spot in the East.
Following his monster game, which also included seven assists, Russell upped his season averages and career bests to 20.5 points and 6.7 assists per game.  
It’s the kind of numbers that many expected Russell to display upon being drafted second overall in 2015 by the Los Angeles Lakers. However, initial struggles under the microscope that comes with playing in Hollywood provided plenty of growing pains for the Ohio State product. Struggles that the Lakers were obviously unwilling to work with as they proceeded to draft Lonzo Ball in an attempt to win as soon as possible. 
So came the decision to jettison Russell to Brooklyn as the Lakers took a shot at him before closing the door. 
“We want to thank him for what he did for us,” Magic Johnson said. “But what I needed was a leader.” 
 Sending Russell to the Nets was like the NBA’s equivalent of being banished to Siberia. Brooklyn won just 28 games in Russell’s first year with the team. It was the Nets’ third-straight season of winning fewer than 30 games. 
Heading into this season, it looked like he was going to miss out on the Lakers’ return to prominence after LeBron James signed on over the summer.  Preseason projections be damned, though, the Nets have a better record than the drama-riddled Lakers with 21 games to go thanks to Los Angeles’ outcast. 
James attempted to trade half the roster for Anthony Davis as he continues to struggle to carry a team he said lacked urgency and experience following a 128-115 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday.
It only further proves that Russell was spot on earlier this month when he stated that being traded to the Nets was the best thing for his career.

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