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Kenny Atkinson praises D'Angelo Russell's maturity in accepting his role

D’Angelo Russell of the Brooklyn Nets drive to

D’Angelo Russell of the Brooklyn Nets drive to the basket past Dario Saric of the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center on Sun. Nov. 4, 2018. Credit: Errol Anderson

Second-guessing is part of the job description for any NBA coach, but Nets coach Kenny Atkinson was unfazed by the reaction to his decision to keep starting point guard D’Angelo Russell on the bench for the entire fourth quarter of a loss to the Rockets on Friday.

Speaking before the Nets faced the 76ers on Sunday night at Barclays Center, Atkinson praised Russell for his mature reaction and said he hasn’t felt the need to discuss the situation with him.

“I think from his quotes, he understands it,” Atkinson said. “He’ll be ready to go tonight, he’ll be in the starting lineup and hopefully will have a good game.”

Russell responded with a solid game, leading the Nets with 21 points and six assists in a 122-97 victory. He scored twice in an 18-10 second-quarter run as the Nets took control, and in the fourth quarter, he hit two baskets in a stretch in which the Nets extended their lead to 110-86.

Atkinson was pleased with how well Russell responded. Looking ahead to the Nets’ four-game West Coast road trip, Atkinson said, “Now the challenge is for him to do it on this road trip and keep doing it. I do think the flow of our offense and the fact we got out more in transition helps him.

“Sometimes we get stagnant and they lock into him. But we did a great job with our pace and getting him free and in flow. That was the difference.”

Russell said he focused on his defense to be effective, and he got to his spots on offense to make shots.

Speaking of his transition game, he said, “That’s a chance to get to the foul line to get easy looks for guys, including myself . . .

“We capitalized on their turnovers. We tried to get in transition to make plays and score versus holding it and letting them set up their defense. They’re a really good defensive team in the half-court.”

New York Sports