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D’Angelo Russell’s fresh start is paying off in Brooklyn

If D’Angelo Russell made one thing painfully clear when Magic Johnson — also known as the greatest point guard of all time — traded him to Brooklyn and subsequently questioned his leadership, it’s this:

Russell can’t control Magic’s opinion; he can only control what happens when he’s on the court.

What’s been equally clear in the second chapter of Russell’s young career is the relative success he’s enjoyed early on with Kenny Atkinson’s Nets.

In his third year, Brooklyn’s guard is averaging 21.7 points in 26.4 minutes per game on a drastically improved 46.6 percent shooting from the field. He also has five assists and four rebounds a night, giving him better numbers on more efficient shooting in fewer minutes than he played in Los Angeles.

That points to an improved basketball player in an environment suitable to his talents.

The Nets guard makes his return to Staples Center to take on the Lakers for the first time as an opponent on Friday night. Russell’s been nonchalant about his return, downplaying the matchup to The New York Post’s Alex Squadron as merely the “first game on a long road trip.”

But if anything has been far from nonchalant, it’s his game in Brooklyn’s pace-and-space offense. And if you haven’t been paying attention to the 3-5 Nets this season, their new floor general has been a joy to watch.

Russell made Jonathan Isaac touch Earth

D’Angelo Russell welcomes Jonathan Isaac to the NBA by putting him on skates.

— (@Ballislife) October 21, 2017

He broke down Mike James, too

D’Angelo Russell with the crossover and he cashes the jumper

— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) October 31, 2017

Russell taught Brooklyn what time it is

D’Angelo Russell puts Jonathan Isaac on skates!

— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) October 21, 2017

His growing pains are fun to watch

D’Angelo Russell with a Jordan-esque ball-fake then midrange shot

— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) October 9, 2017

More battles with Devin Booker, pls

Devin Booker (32) duels with D’Angelo Russell (33)!

— (@Ballislife) November 1, 2017

The prep boy swag


D’Angelo Russell arrives for tonight’s @BrooklynNets game on #NBA League Pass!

— NBA (@NBA) October 24, 2017

The no-look passes

This no-look pass from D’Angelo Russell

— NBA Lowdown (@NBALowdown) October 22, 2017

D’Angelo Russell with the steal and no-look pass to Allen Crabbe, who gets the bucket

— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) October 22, 2017

That pass from D’Angelo Russell, though

— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) October 8, 2017

Passing between defenders’ legs

D’Angelo Russell insane nutmeg pass between Vucevic’s legs

— gifdsports (@gifdsports) October 25, 2017

The Nets — though sitting at a 3-5 record riding a three-game losing streak — look like a revitalized franchise with an injection of fresh, young blood in the form of their new point guard. And even though he’s not losing sleep over Magic’s comments, Russell said he thinks he’s gotten better over the summer, and that he “definitely [wants] to go in [to Los Angeles it] and showcase that.”

The numbers definitely prove it. And on Friday, Russell will walk back into Staples Center in an attempt to show Los Angeles he doesn’t need to talk.

His play can do the talking for him.

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