Five Thoughts From The Nets’ 123-94 Win Over The Kings, Including D’Angelo Russell Doing His Best James Harden…(Video)Read Now
Here are five thoughts from the Nets’ 123-94 win over the Kings Monday afternoon in Brooklyn.
1. D’Angelo Russell is forcing the Nets into a difficult decision this summer
24 points per game on 50/44/92 with a TS% of 61. Those are Dlo’s shooting percentage splits for the month of January. The reigning eastern conference player of the week is playing the best basketball of his career and is a big reason the Nets are 17-5 in their last 22 games.
At the beginning of the season, especially during close games, Dlo would often be on the bench. Head coach Kenny Atkinson would opt to go with his veterans, as well as Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert as his primary ball handlers down the stretch. Atkinson didn’t trust Dlo to make the right decisions and it was the right move. But Dlo never wavered, and injuries to LeVert and other players forced Atkinson to play the 22-year-old point guard. He has rewarded his coach’s faith in him with excellent play the last month or so.
Dlo will become a restricted free agent at the end of this season and Nets GM Sean Marks will have a tough decision to make. Heading into this season the Nets were slotted to have enough cap space for two max free agents this coming summer. They have since re-signed Spencer Dinwiddie and the team is looking like they’ll make the playoffs. It will be hard to justify not offering him a deal or matching any other offer. Time will tell.
In the meantime, Atkinson is very proud of his young point guard, referring to his ability to create space on step back threes as “Harden-esque.”
In his postgame media availability, Dlo was asked his thoughts on being “Harden-esque” and what it means to have Atkinson believe in him.
2. The spirit of this team is a real thing
Noted sports writer Bill Simmons famously wrote about the secret of basketball in his opus “The Book of Basketball.” The secret of basketball, as it turns out, is that it’s not about basketball. Simmons was recanting a story told to him by Hall of Fame Detroit Pistons champion Isiah Thomas, in which Thomas talks about chemistry being an overlooked part of a championship team.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The Nets aren’t winning the title this season, because talent matters and they don’t have enough top-end talent. But, this team has a togetherness and camaraderie that is palpable. You feel it in the arena. You can see it after someone makes a smart play or hustles for a loose ball. Guys on the bench are up high fiving, supporting each other. It’s all the stuff you love if you’re one of those “unifying power of sports” people. It may sound hokie, but even the toughest cynic knows, being in an environment where people genuinely care about one another and are happy to be there is much better than the alternative.
In his postgame media availability, Atkinson was asked about the spirit of the team.