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D & # 39; Angelo Russell is built for this


"Brooklyn is back on the map, I'm not bouncing. If you defeat all enemies, bring your styles with you. "

Jeru the Damaja introduced this poetry to the world in" Brooklyn Took It, "which dates back to 1994. Twenty-five years have passed since then, but for the Brooklyn networks she still has weight today. The nets are definitely back. They are in the middle of the playoff image, clinging to a future that shimmers with potential as they move through a rapid transformation in the present. Their swift turn from a team charged with dreadful contracts, aging budgets, and no draft choices is a credit to great coaching, fluent, team-oriented offenses, solid defense, and above all D & # 39; Angelo Russell. Russell won his first all-star selection this season, which has convincingly evolved into the best player on a team heading into the postseason. He has spent years nagging criticism to become one of the league's most effective and entertaining point guards. He is an artist in pick-and-roll, a ballplayer without fear. Give him the stone in the clutch and clear the way.

The all-round growth is easy. It's about trust, opportunity and patience. Because all this should happen ̵

1; the All-Star appearance, the clear cornerstone of the franchise that makes the playoffs. Ever since he grew up in Louisville, KY, Russell has started his work on the field.

"We got our first rim in the garden of our grandmother and have always shot," Russell recalls. "I used to shoot very high. It was only my thing. All the kids would come over – you shoot up, you shoot up. And they just started calling me Rainbow. "

" He was not strong enough to shoot him to actually shoot him, "says his older brother Antonio. "He would have to throw it. And it always went in. Everyone in the neighborhood called him Rainbow. "Rainbow, there's a rainbow." As he opens a smile, Antonio raises his voice and imitates the children from his hometown.

Antonio, who is two years older than D & # 39; Angelo, goes on to say that his brother's abilities have progressed from the start.

"We had a few neighborhood friends who would come over," says Antonio. "And he was the youngest. Everyone was in my age group or a year older than me. They would all come there and everyone would do it. I think he developed that tenacity there. Everyone would try to go for it. He was already prepared to deal with them. He knew that the only way to gain the respect of everyone was to approach them. He had to do it.

D'Angelo's mental stamina was already developed and he would need it early in his career. After an outstanding Newman season at the Central High School in Louisville, he moved to the Montverde Academy, a national power plant in Florida, which has become a breeding ground for future professionals. But he was immediately put in the bank. His head coach Kevin Boyle was always chasing him and verbally abusing him. Russell's tolerance was running out.

"I remember when I came in, I came from the bank," says Russell. "I would dominate the practice. I did not understand why I did not play. I called my father about a month or two later and said, "I want to come home." He said, "No, stay tuned. Want to win a national championship or state championship? "I was like, damn, OK. Then we won. The pain, the storm that you are going through, is always brighter on the other side, if you are only dealing with it.

The left-hander, however, was not finished with the pain. When selected by the Lakers in the 2015 draft, it looked like everything was going to be okay.

"We had many players who could dominate the game," Russell says. "You go back to Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram. We had many types there. "

But the shit got rocky and he could sense that a trade would come. A deal announced two days before the 2017 draft sent him to the Nets. Instead of being salty, it was a hype about the opportunity.

"When it was first traded, I remember exactly where I was," says Antonio. "I was in a cinema in Kentucky. I called him immediately. I was like "Yo, what is that?" He was just like, "Bro, you do not know how excited I am to have a clean board."

"For me to act first, I knew I was ready to dominate wherever I went," says Russell. "I was ready."

Non-stop hatred and doubts followed him from LA until BK, but Russell has never been shaken.

"It's just that …" Russell says about the constant drama of the internet and the media, making his hands a Pacman-like movement. "I knew my circle It was an opportunity to start with a young team right in front of the national media radar, Russell's first season in Brooklyn was solid and he posted good numbers and averaged 15 points and 5 assists, but only played 48 games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in November 2017.

When the season ended and the Nets missed the playoffs for the third year in a row, they threw Russell takes a long look in the mirror He has always been able to judge what's going on in his life, be it good or bad, and be honest with himself. Born only in 1996, he is mature enough for his age, a psyche that has been in the limelight for years and under pressure. He was only 22 years old when the campaign ended last year, but he knew it was time for a change. The 2018-19 season should be his.

Instead of going to Louisville or spending the summer in Los Angeles, Russell stayed in Brooklyn with a fresh appetite. He had lived damn near in the gym. He made adjustments he had never made before. He worked on basketball and brought everything up to date.

Antonio says his brother cut out junk food, and his renewed commitment to eating law has severely affected the entire Russell family. They all follow D & # 39; Angelo's footsteps. But D & # 39; Angelo followed no one else. He decided to change his eating habits himself.

"I did not know, you know? Once the workout is over, I remember being the first one to leave, "Russell says. "I'll take my pictures, but I was not treated. I did not get massages, ice cold tub, all because I did not know.

Who told him?

"Man, I've chosen so many brains of people," he says [Rajon] Rondo, Chris Paul, James Harden, and LeBron, all these guys, there's a reason They know the secret, they know what sets it apart from the court, anyone can play, but what do you do to get your body ready for every exercise, every game? "

After a summer, in After renovating everything about his play and his body, Russell took a back seat to Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie season.

"It was hard to start the season," says Nets' striker Jared Dudley Tested in the fourth quarter, he fought aggressively and tried to find his role, Caris set off to see [Russell] cheering on the bench, constructive criticism in film sessions and it finally clicked in. I think Caris hurt himself and he had to be a bit more aggressive and the coaches a bit m have more confidence. But he answered. Once he had found his rhythm, his confidence only continued to grow.

But trust was never an issue for his brother.

"Yes, the trust was there. There, man, "Antonio laughs. "That can not take away much from him. And when the opportunity came and he had to show her, he took her and ran with him. "

Russell was all about his game when he got the reins. Floaters, mid-range fadeaways, rainbow three-pointers, ice bucket with ice in the veins in tight games, all began to fall. Forty points and a game winner in Orlando. Thirty-six points, 8 assists and 7 boards to outlast the Cavaliers in a triple-over-time marathon. A 34-point test against the Celtics; a night with 14 dimen against the raptors; a 22-point and 13-assist performance in a win over the Lakers. A absurd 44-point performance in Sacramento, which included 27 points in the fourth quarter, was heading for a 28-point comeback. An average of 23.6 points and 7.7 templates since 1 January. And a wild performance on his 23rd birthday, which both D & # 39; Angelo and Antonio count as their favorite moment of the season.

"I've surprised myself," says Russell Nacht in Charlotte as he scores the last 12 points in the nets. "I just looked up and had 40th damn."

"And [the Nets] had the lead, lost the lead and then came back," recalls Antonio. And [D’Angelo] is the trigger for this comeback. That was something special.

Even more than statistics and individual achievements, Russell's teammates say the biggest leap he has made is leadership. They repeat the word again and again.

"He is a great leader," says Rookie Rodions Kurucs . "He gives me all the tips. Always come to talk to me. Just explain things and try to motivate me too. "

" From what I've heard, I've heard that he has matured a lot, "says Ed Davis. Davis, a defensive veteran, has been in the league since 2010 and his locker is right next to Russells. "He's a great teammate and a good leader since I'm here."

"He's the best player on this team and [he’s] leads us," says Jarrett Allen's soaring center. "I saw him growing in this area. People do not understand you know that he has taken a step, but not how big this step is. "

" He's 50 percent louder now than at the beginning of the year, "confirms Dudley." He brings us together, leads our breaks. "People criticized this early in his career as being young It was a quiet, natural progression at the beginning of the year and is now definitely being sung. "

Russell's progress, both on and off the pitch, has searched all the way through landmines of the drama School, his short time with the Lakers, his start with the Nets, those were all trials, persistence and perseverance have been Russell's business cards for years.

It led to the photos you see here, the tribute to Biggie, crown up That's worth it.

"I focus so much on what I want to achieve, and I just look up, and it's all here," Russell says of the Playoffs, the All-Star Weekend, his career-best season. [19659005] "If the game shakes or breaks me, I hope it makes me a better person. Do not stay shy, but move only when your heart is in it. And live the phrase "Heaven is the limit."

Christopher Wallace introduced this lyrics to the world in 1997. 22 years have passed since then, but for D & # 39; Angelo Russell he still has weight.


Max Resetar is Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Portraits of Justin Borucki.

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