INDIANAPOLIS — Given that he was the prize for trading all-time franchise scoring leader Brook Lopez last summer, the focus was squarely on third-year guard D’Angelo Russell making his Nets debut Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. He scored 30 points, the franchise record for a player making his debut, but the Nets lost, 140-131.
Coach Kenny Atkinson defined success for Russell this way: “Be part of the group. We’re going to do this as a team, and we’re going to do it together. I think he had a pretty good preseason, he integrated well into the group. First game, young guy with a new team . . . There’s 82 of these, so he obviously wants to play well and we obviously want to play well, but we understand the grand scheme here.”
Russell hit 12 of 22 shots, including a 4-for-8 effort from three-point range, and his five assists were a team-high. Because of a knee injury suffered by Jeremy Lin, more responsibility will fall on Russell for the home opener against Orlando Friday night.
“I think we’ll be ready to bounce back for Friday,” Russell said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We can score points, but it’s the little things like defense, rebounding, transition defense especially. It’s going to take everybody to do it, not just myself . . . Everybody is anxious to do it and help this team.”
Surfing the Nets
Allen Crabbe is the Nets’ highest-paid player, but he came off the bench as a precaution after suffering a sprained ankle that caused him to miss the first two preseason games. “We want to be smart about how much we play him,” Atkinson said. Crabbe logged 26:47 and scored 12 points with seven rebounds . . . Former Nets marksman Bojan Bogdanovic, who was traded to Washington in February, signed with the Pacers as a free agent and started, totaling 14 points. “He can spread the floor offensively and be a laser from the three-point line,” pacers coach Nate McMillan said.