D’Angelo Russell makes his return to Brooklyn on Wednesday night, assuming he isn’t traded by then.
Russell, the subject of multiple trade talks, is expected to face the Nets at Barclays Center for the first time since being acquired by the Golden State Warriors — and inking a four-year, $117 million max contract — as part of a sign-and-trade deal over the summer.
Brooklyn elected to move on from Russell, while grabbing superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in free agency. Still, the 23-year-old point guard was a huge part of the franchise’s turnaround, and a significant reason why the Nets were able to land the duo.
“His dedication — how he kind of changed the narrative about him — and helped us change our narrative, he was a big part of it,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said after practice on Tuesday. “I’m glad he was rewarded, let’s be honest, with the contract. I can’t wait to see him and say hello.”
Russell, who sat out of Monday’s game in Washington because of a quad contusion but returned to practice on Tuesday, is averaging 23.8 points and 6.3 assists while shooting 38.3 percent from three-point range for the Warriors, who are still without the injured Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
The Knicks and Timberwolves have expressed interest in Russell, although the Knicks just parted ways with president Steve Mills.
Russell became a beloved figure in Brooklyn after helping the team rebound from an 8-18 start to an unlikely playoff berth, paving the way for a massive score in free agency. But there wasn’t always perfect harmony, and Atkinson needed to give Russell some tough love at times.
“I think we definitely knocked [heads], but at the end of the day, you could coach D’Angelo,” Atkinson said. “He was open to coaching and he’s one of the most positive guys I’ve been around, too.”
Russell also apparently unfollowed Spencer Dinwiddie on Instagram in July — perhaps upset by Dinwiddie’s role in helping land Irving and Durant in an obvious upgrade — though both players maintained their relationship is fine.
“I can ask him about it if you’d like,” Dinwiddie said, while adding they were never “best-best friends or anything like that.”
“That’s the first time I’m hearing about that. Pretty sure I still follow him, so I’m solid. He’s a phenomenal player, great teammate and last year was very special.”
Said Russell of Dinwiddie at Warriors’ practice in New York: “That’s my guy. He should’ve been an All-Star this year.”
Notes & quotes: Dinwiddie, who won the 2018 Skills Challenge, will be back in the event at All-Star Weekend in Chicago, the league announced. Dinwiddie had recently expressed his displeasure that he wasn't selected by the league to defend his title before offering an apology for his comments . . . There were no updates on Kyrie Irving (knee), who will be reevaluated at the end of the week . . . As part of his rehab of a ruptured Achilles tendon in his right leg, Kevin Durant sprinted and threw a football following Tuesday’s practice.