OKLAHOMA CITY — D’Angelo Russell scored 30 points in his Nets debut and averaged 20.9 points through his first 12 games before suffering a knee injury and missing nearly 10 weeks. Getting back into that groove while coming back from arthroscopic surgery has been no easy task for Russell, who had seven points in the third quarter of the Nets’ 109-108 loss to the Thunder Tuesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
As much as he wants to make an immediate impact, Russell learned patience during his rehab process and simply is trying to fit into the program the Nets’ performance team has laid out for his comeback. “I’d rather be cautious and safe than trying to rush that process,” Russell said after morning shootaround. “I’m not really rushing anything.
“You win games by scoring more points, so I definitely want to score more points, but doing it the right way. I’m not going to just jump right in there and try to be the leading scorer. Game experience is going to help.”
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson described it as a “sign of maturity” that Russell isn’t trying to do too much. “I think he’s trying to fit in with what we’re doing, and if he keeps that mindset, once he gets in better rhythm, he’ll be more aggressive,” Atkinson said. “That’s who he is as a player. But right now, I like that he’s just trying to fit into the team concept.”
For now, Russell is coming off the bench, playing just under 15 minutes in each of his first three games back and totaling 11 points, but ultimately, he will start in the backcourt with Spencer Dinwiddie.
“He’s playing really well,” Russell said of Dinwiddie. “It’s coach’s decision to make those choices. Our job to go out and play, and hopefully, we can finish games out together. A lot of guys are playing well. It’s a tough choice for coach, so I’m just trying to stay ready.”