D’Angelo Russell already offensive star, but now must be leader

The Brooklyn Nets only have to look across the court to see the troubling effects not having a franchise point guard can cause.

The Suns entered Tuesday night’s game against the Nets at Barclays Center as one of the most dysfunctional teams in the NBA, having already fired Earl Watson as the team’s coach three games into the season and banishing point guard Eric Bledsoe after he publicly aired his desire to be traded on Twitter shortly after.

While the Nets have dropped two-straight games entering Tuesday night, the play of point guard D’Angelo Russell has been one of the team’s few bright spots so far this season and has the team positioned for future success after a dismal past few years.

Russell, who the Nets acquired in a trade with the Lakers in the days leading up to the 2017 draft, has quickly developed into the team’s undisputed star on offense. The former No. 2 pick was thrust into the starting point guard role, shifting over from shooting guard, after starter Jeremy Lin suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Nets’ season opener.

Behind Russell, the Nets enter Tuesday with the No. 3-scoring offense in the NBA, averaging 114.7 points per game.

D’Angelo Russell’s talent isn’t in question, but now he must become a leader.

(Kathy Willens/AP)

Russell has scored 15 or more points in five of six games played and leads the team with 19.8 points per game on 45.4-percent shooting from the field. In addition to his scoring, Russell also enters Tuesday averaging 5.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals.

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said he would grade Russell’s performance a “B+ to an A.”

“As far as picking up what we’re trying to do and trying to implement and buy into our principles, he’s been outstanding,” Atkinson said prior to Tuesday’s game.

While Atkinson praised Russell’s play, he noted the 22-year-old guard still has room for improvement when it comes to developing into a leader, something Atkinson was quick to point out will surely come in due time.

Coach Kenny Atkinson is confident D'Angelo Russell's 'leadership is going to come.'

Coach Kenny Atkinson is confident D’Angelo Russell’s ‘leadership is going to come.’

(Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports)

“The leadership is going to come. I just think that’s going to take time. Think of yourself at 22 years old, he’s around veterans,” Atkinson said.

“But I do think that’s something he’s working on. I think it’s my job to help him with it. With talent comes responsibility, so he does have responsibility to help lead this group.”

INJURY NOTES

Rookie center Jarrett Allen is a surprise inactive for Tuesday’s game against the Suns. Allen, who the Nets took with the No. 22 pick in this year’s draft, sat out with a left foot strain. The 6-foot-11 big man is averaging 4.0 points and 2.7 rebounds in 15 minutes this season.

Power forward Quincy Acy (left groin strain) also sat out Tuesday.



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