Nets All-Star D’Angelo Russell was cited last week after it was discovered he was hiding marijuana while trying to board at a New York airport, but this distraction won’t prevent him and Brooklyn from coming together on a new deal this summer, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes.
“It’s not an issue,” one league source told Lewis. “I’ve had a cell phone ticket that was more [costly].”
Russell, who’s coming off a career season with the Nets, is scheduled to become a restricted free agent on July 1. Brooklyn will likely offer him a lucrative multi-year deal, especially if the team strikes out on recruiting some of the top free-agent players.
Russell won’t be suspended by the NBA for his first-time action, as stated in the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. He’s heading into free agency as one of the most talented backcourt players, coming off a season that saw him average a career-high 21.1 points, seven assists and 1.2 steals in 81 games.
“We got a little lucky: We got him in the right time frame and the point in his maturity,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of Russell on a Bleacher Report podcast last week. “He never expected anything. When we had our first conversation with him, I was authentic with him and honest that you’re going to have to earn it. And I think that was a continuing conversation. I think our communication helped.
“There was nary a text, never a ‘Hey coach, can I talk to you? I’m not happy.’ There was zero of that. I think he knew he had to earn it, take stock of how he was playing, and was honest with himself. … He tells me that all the time: ‘I really learned how to be a pro here.’ ”
There’s more out of the Eastern Conference today:
- Matt John of Basketball Insiders examines potential landing spots for veteran guard Vince Carter, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Carter has played for three different teams in the past three seasons, good for eight different teams in his 21-year career. John speculates that Carter could be a good fit on many different clubs, including a potential return in Toronto.
- Sean Deveney of Sporting News outlines the offseason focus for the Magic, including free agency, the draft and more. Orlando has a major decision to make on whether they want to retain All-Star center Nikola Vucevic on a new deal, with the 28-year-old also set to reach free agency in July.
- The Pacers need Victor Oladipo to pace himself in order for them to maximize their potential next season, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star writes. Oladipo suffered a season-ending torn right quad tendon in January and is pushing to get himself ready for next year, though it’s imperative that he doesn’t rush the process and risk suffering a setback. Indiana finished with the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference at 48-34 this season despite Oladipo only appearing in 36 of those games.