To call this offseason a wild ride would be a huge understatement. While Sean Marks worked his magic to get Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan to Brooklyn, it came with a cost.
D’Angelo Russell is being shipped with a new max deal to the Golden State Warriors.
While his stint with the Brooklyn Nets was not the longest, it occurred during perhaps the most transformative time in the franchise’s history. This is how Russell helped get the Nets to this point, an All-Star run to remember.
June 20, 2017
D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov are traded for Brook Lopez and the 27th pick
This was the move that started it all. Brook Lopez was a fan favorite and former All-Star, and also the best asset Marks had to work with. When this trade happened on draft night, it signaled that the front office was moving onto the next phase on the rebuild where it would be taking expiring contracts in exchange for future assets — the first of those being Russell.
Many had already counted Russell out after failing to live up to the burden that comes with being the second overall pick and playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Magic: Dribble the ball up the court and we won't trade you.
D'Angelo Russell: pic.twitter.com/jMpPs1yy5l
— Legends (@LegendsofCH) June 21, 2017
Little did they know, he was just starting to load.
The trade is finally official. Brook Lopez is no longer a Net, and D'Angelo Russell is.
— The Brooklyn Game (@TheBKGame) June 23, 2017
Oct. 18, 2017
Russell suits up in black for the first time
The Nets rolled out a starting lineup of Jeremy Lin, D’Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll and Timofey Mozgov against the Indiana Pacers on opening night. This was less than two years ago, lest ye forget. None of those players are still on the team with Russell lasting the longest. He showed himself to be a force early on.
.@Dloading doing his thing 🔥 https://t.co/fBZPcLReTu
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) October 18, 2017
Those were his first three points for the team, but certainly not the last. The Nets fell short in that game, but in the process, Russell dropped 30 points on 54.5 percent shooting. No pressure in debuting for a new team for a man with ice in his veins.
Oct. 31, 2017
Russell posts his best game of season shortly before going down
First of all, to address the elephant in the room: Yes, Timofey Mozgov was still starting — Jarrett Allen didn’t even suit up (he was injured). Funnily enough, that’s only the second scariest part about this Halloween thriller!
This is terrifying pic.twitter.com/x2VAibcooe
— The Brooklyn Game (@TheBKGame) October 31, 2017
It’s insane to think of how far the team has come so quickly.
D-Lo is doing his thing
He's off to a fast start with 7 points! https://t.co/EA4BAE6qC0
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) October 31, 2017
This is yet another game where Brooklyn wouldn’t walk away with a win, but D’Lo did his best with 33 points and just one turnover. But not even a month later, Russell suffered a knee injury caused him to miss 31 games.
He spent the rest of his first season with the Nets attempting to return to his early-season form, playing just 48 games total.
The first full offseason
Russell makes strides as a player and person
Leading up to this season, one could not scroll through any social media feed as a Nets fan without seeing article after article talking about how the players and coaching staff were impressed with the work that D’Lo put in over the summer. He was stronger, quicker and most importantly — a leader.
In his first season in Brooklyn, Russell had only five outings with a game score of 20 or higher. In his second season, Russell had 24 contests with over 20 points and four games where he was over 30. He also was much more durable, missing only one of the 82 games throughout the regular season.
He knew his time had come to shine.
Oct. 17, 2018
New teammates come with growing pains
The offseason was a busy one for Marks and his crew, evidenced by the fact that other than Russell, there wasn’t a single returning starter from the 2017 opener. This time, D’Lo was be joined by Joe Harris, Caris LeVert, Jared Dudley and Allen.
Despite Russell’s hype, he opened the season with a lackluster performance — eight points on 3-for-9 shooting is not quite what the fans were expecting, but it was just the beginning.
Nov. 25, 2018
Philly feels the wrath as Russell begins to burn brighter
🆙 and under!@Dloading | #WeGoHard https://t.co/gQHBiH4Evn
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) November 25, 2018
This was Russell’s first truly great game of this season, and it was by no means be his last. A crazy stat line of 38 points on 57.1 percent shooting with eight rebounds and eight assists was not quite enough to push Brooklyn over the top against the Philadelphia 76ers, but it was a sorely needed bright spot after the brutal loss of Caris LeVert a few weeks earlier.
The fanbase desperately needed a hero, somebody to put their faith in. Russell donned the mantle.
Jan. 18, 2019
Brooklyn breaks .500 for the first time in forever
This game frequently gets overlooked, as it happened right after the insane comeback against the Houston Rockets where Spencer Dinwiddie hit 3 three-pointers in the last minute to send it to overtime — where Brooklyn emerged the victor.
DLo scored 19 straight for the Nets to close the half. 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/sPTb9YAjQy
— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) January 19, 2019
Every one of Russell’s at the time career-high 40 points was absolutely crucial, as the Nets barely scrapped a 117-115 win out against the Orlando Magic to have a winning record for what felt like the first time in ages. Not to mention that he did it on 64.0 percent shooting with seven assists.
D’Angelo Russell named an All-Star
Brooklyn’s first All-Star in over four years
Russell was chosen by commissioner Adam Silver as the injury replacement for Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers in the 2018-19 NBA All-Star game. This was in the midst of the Nets’ rise through the standings, where they went 20-5 with Russell averaging a career high in points and assists.
D’Angelo Russell mic’d up against the Kings. Dude deserves to be an All-Star this year 💯❄️
— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) January 24, 2019
D’Lo was creating something special in Brooklyn, and the league began to take notice.
Feb. 23, 2019
D’Lo has a birthday bash in Charlotte
Russell spent his 23rd birthday carrying the Nets to an unlikely but vital win, as the Hornets quickly became one of Brooklyn’s main competitors for one of the last playoff spots.
When the game was on the line, @Dloading took matters into his own hands.
A career-high-tying 4️⃣0️⃣ points for DLo on his 23rd birthday 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/FDYmpzURXf
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) February 24, 2019
March 19, 2019
The greatest comeback in Nets’ history
What a game. If you somehow missed this instant classic, the offseason is finally winding down and you have no excuse to not go back and watch it right now.
It’s nearly impossible to describe just how incredible D’Lo was. Brooklyn trailed by 25 going into the fourth quarter while most had already tuned out, but Russell simply refused to let it end.
He dropped 27 points in the fourth alone as he broke his career-high yet again with 44 points.
THE ICE IS FLOWING THROUGH HIS VEINS TONIGHT 💉❄️ pic.twitter.com/yxPgykHneh
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 20, 2019
We, along with everyone else watching the game, were shell-shocked. The Nets pulled a 123-121 victory out of what seemed like a disgustingly one-sided blowout.
— The Brooklyn Game (@TheBKGame) March 20, 2019
This game confirmed it for anyone who still had any doubts: D’Angelo Russell is a one-of-a-kind player.
April 13, 2019
Brooklyn opens the postseason with power
It wasn’t Russell’s best game of the season, but it was one of the most important. The fact that the team made the playoffs likely made all the difference in terms of being a contender this free agency.
That would have never happened without the incredible work that Russell put in over the course of the season. That culminated in Philadelphia, where he earned his first-ever playoff victory and the first for the franchise in 1,448 days.
🎥 26 points, including a 14-point third quarter, for @Dloading in his playoff debut #WeGoHard pic.twitter.com/jxSuwXj8BF
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) April 14, 2019
Getting to the playoffs was momentous enough, but taking a game was the cherry on top.
June 30, 2019
Kyrie and KD to the “Other” Borough
This move came as no surprise to Nets fans — at least the first half of it. Irving had been linked to Brooklyn for most of the offseason, and there were always rumblings that he was trying to convince Durant to join him.
The fanbase has been arguing with itself for weeks over Irving and Russell, but Durant simply tipped the scales too far for it to even be a conversation. It was clear that D’Lo’s time wearing black and white was coming to a close.
Golden State and Brooklyn have agreed on a sign-and-trade, sending D’Angelo Russell to the Warriors on a four-year, $117M maximum contract, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 1, 2019
But, the Warriors? Really?
That came completely out of left field. They are a great organization, however, with an intelligent front office and talented coaching staff.
It’s a great landing spot for Russell, and Golden State should help him evolve into the best basketball player he can be.
Where do the Nets go from here?
Brooklyn is now a major free-agent destination and will likely be a contender for years to come. That doesn’t happen without D’Angelo Russell.
Russell is making over $25 million per year and in a great position to become one of the biggest stars of this league. That doesn’t happen without the Brooklyn Nets.
This was one of those rare occurrences in this league where both the pairing and the split were mutually beneficial, and no hard feelings exist between the two parties. Nets fans will always be grateful for what D’Lo did for this team, and the memories from this magical season won’t soon fade.
LET'S DO THIS, BROOKLYN.#WEGOHARD pic.twitter.com/ohCSKGqeTT
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) April 13, 2019
Goodbye, D’Angelo Russell, and good luck. Your time is now. You haven’t finished loading.
Thanks for the ice and memories you brought to Brooklyn.