SAN ANTONIO — When the Eastern Conference All-Star reserves were announced Thursday night, Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell was a glaring omission. There still is a chance he might be called upon to replace injured Pacers guard Victor Oladipo, but that call is down the road.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson expressed his conviction that Russell merited selection.
“I’ll repeat what I’ve been saying,” he said. “He’s been playing at an All-Star level. I respect the process, respect my colleagues as coaches, but from our perspective, he’s been playing at an All-Star level.
“We’ll see with the Oladipo situation if he gets a shot. It’d be great.”
With Oladipo out, does Russell think he’s the logical call? “That’s not up to me, honestly,’’ he said after Thursday night’s 117-114 loss to the Spurs. “Like I said, to be in this position where my play individually is getting that type of exposure, that’s something you definitely want to put on your shoulders. But it is what it is.”
In Tuesday’s home win over the Bulls, Russell had 30 points, seven assists and zero turnovers, marking the third such game he’s had this season and the most by a player in one season since the NBA began tracking turnovers in 1977-78. He had 25 points and nine assists against the Spurs.
In his fourth season, Russell entered Thursday night averaging career highs in points (19.5), assists (6.4), offensive rating (107.1) and defensive rating (106.0). He has nine 30-point games after totaling seven the previous three years.
Russell and the Nets have Orlando next. Is it hard to block out the All-Star talk?
“Yeah. Just got to focus on that game,’’ Russell said. “That’s bigger than what I’ve got going on or anything else going on in the locker room.”
The Eastern Conference reserves are Bradley Beal (Wizards), Blake Griffin (Pistons), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Khris Middleton (Bucks), Ben Simmons (76ers), Nikola Vucevic (Magic) and Oladipo.
The West’s backups: Anthony Davis (Pelicans), LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves) and Russell Westbrook (Thunder).