Six days after Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell suffered what was described as a contusion of the left knee in Utah, the other shoe dropped. General manager Sean Marks announced Friday that Russell had arthroscopic surgery earlier in the day “to remove a loose body” from his left knee.
The surgery was performed by Dr. Riley Williams at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Marks declined to specify a timetable for Russell’s recovery but said: “It’s arthroscopic surgery, so the plan would be for him to return this season . . . We’ll see how he recovers from this surgery. We’re going to do what’s best for D’Angelo first and foremost. We’ll also take into account what’s best for the Nets. We’ll come to that conclusion together.”
Marks said Russell at first was listed as day-to-day because the Nets wanted to see how he responded to treatment, but they ultimately decided surgery was the long-term solution. Russell had knee issues while playing for the Lakers last season before being traded to the Nets in June, but Marks said the current injury was specifically related to the one he suffered last Saturday at Utah.
“The great thing is he’s young enough, and he’s certainly going to bounce back from something like this,” Marks said of the 21-year-old point guard, who was the second overall pick in the 2015 draft. “We’re not too concerned in that regard.”
Russell’s injury is the second major injury suffered by a Nets point guard this season. Jeremy Lin ruptured his right patella tendon in the season opener at Indiana and was lost for the season. Since taking over ballhandling duties, Russell was averaging 20.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists.
Backup Spencer Dinwiddie started the past three games in place of Russell, including a 118-107 victory over the Jazz on Friday night at Barclays Center in which Dinwiddie had 25 points and eight assists. But the depth behind him will be tested. Second-year man Caris LeVert, usually a shooting guard, now will spend much of his time at the point. Second-year player Isaiah Whitehead, who started much of last season when Lin was injured, will get some time. Sean Kilpatrick also might be used.
Coach Kenny Atkinson praised Dinwiddie’s development since the Nets plucked him from the G League last season. “He’s more confident,” Atkinson said. “We sometimes put him on the best [opposing] wing at the end of the game because he understands defense. And he’s got a good understanding of what we do on offense.”
Whitehead has been used sparingly compared with last season, and Atkinson said he doesn’t want to burden him with too many minutes. “As he plays better and his confidence grows, he’ll get more and more minutes,” Atkinson said. “I will say I was very pleased with his defense. The point guard stuff has got to come. Him and Caris, the way we play, they can share the ballhandling duty.”
Marks and Atkinson said Russell has handled his injury well. “He’s a positive, positive person,” Atkinson said. “I talked to him today. He talked about the game tonight and what we need to do. He’s engaged, he’s involved, hasn’t distanced himself. So, positive spirit.”