PORTLAND, Ore. — D’Angelo Russell was basking in the postgame glow of leading the Nets to a must-have win over his former Lakers team Friday night with his third straight double-double. Someone asked the Nets star how important veterans such as DeMarre Carroll, Ed Davis and Jared Dudley have been in terms of helping a young team cope with the stress of fighting for a playoff berth for the first time.
“Huge, huge, all of them,” Russell said. “I can go to them about what to say, how to think, my mentality, and they prepare me the best way they can. I appreciate it.”
Russell wasn’t simply paying lip service to his more experienced teammates. He has listened and learned from them studiously, and he has credited part of his growth and maturity to their guidance.
Just before Russell played in the All-Star Game in February, his father, Antonio, said much the same to Newsday. “The Brooklyn Nets have something special brewing,” Antonio Russell said. Referring to general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson, he added, “Of course Sean and Kenny get a tremendous amount of the credit. But those vets they’ve got, Carroll and Dudley and Davis, too, they hold [D'Angelo] accountable.”
All three have been important on the floor, with Carroll providing three-point shooting and defense, Davis having a career rebounding year off the bench and Dudley playing a variety of roles from starting early in the season to cheerleading on the bench to finding his way back into the rotation because of his defensive savvy and occasional three-point marksmanship. But much of their work goes on inside the locker room and in team huddles during games.
“Whenever you have a bunch of young guys with not a lot of experience, you need veteran guys with experience, guys that have been through the ups and downs from getting cut to getting traded to not playing,” said Davis, who returned to Portland on Monday with the Nets to face his former Trail Blazers team.
“Just to help the guys out. You’ve got a guy like Rondae [Hollis-Jefferson] in and out of the rotation, and he needs someone he can talk to that has been in that situation before. It’s the things that sometimes don’t show up on the court that help guys out.”
When Davis heard Russell’s praise, his reaction was typically stoic. “It’s cool, but honestly, when I do stuff, I don’t do it for recognition or the credit,” Davis said. “I do it just because that’s who I am.”
It’s that dead-honest quality Russell most appreciates about the Nets’ trio of elder statesmen. Last season, most of those duties fell to Carroll. So Carroll welcomed the addition this season of Davis and Dudley.
“I don’t have to scream and yell at the guys all the time and they hear the same voice all the time,” Carroll said. “I think those guys really give me a lot of relief from that aspect. We take turns, and we know which guys like each other and which guys we can talk to more. It’s been key. Those two guys have been amazing.”
Much like Davis, Carroll said the more experienced players can offer all the advice in the world, and it wouldn’t matter if young guys like Russell ignored it.
“We helped him, but DLo did all the work,” Carroll said. “He’s got to take ownership of his success. We could tell you what to do, but if you don’t go do it, it’s on you. He did everything that I told him to do, Ed told him to do and J.D. told him to do. He’s been playing awesome.”