NEW YORK — All Star guard D’Angelo Russell “definitely” hopes to return to the Brooklyn Nets next season but knows that, as a restricted free agent, much of what happens in the offseason will be beyond his control.
“I definitely want to be here. But I also know it’s a business, too. So I’m not going to play that role like I don’t know what could possibly happen,” Russell said Wednesday after the team conducted its exit interviews. “Say somebody comes here that I have to be a part of (a transaction to acquire them), I know that could be a possibility. So I just want to stay in this moment and not speak too soon about anything.”
Russell helped lead the Nets to 42 wins and a playoff berth this season. The 23-year-old averaged 21.1 points and seven assists in 80 regular-season games and earned his first All-Star appearance.
Teammates and Nets coach Kenny Atkinson lauded Russell for his leadership, improved conditioning and professional approach to the game. Russell was asked on Wednesday whether the Nets would have an advantage over other teams this summer due to his success and development in Brooklyn.
“Yeah, for sure, for sure. I don’t know any other teams, I don’t know any other GMs or coaches. I don’t know any of those people. I know where I’m at. So it definitely gives you that advantage,” said Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
The Nets will have the right to match any offer made to Russell this summer. But it could be challenging for the club to create the cap space to sign a max free agent while keeping its rights to Russell, who shot 36 percent from the floor in Brooklyn’s five-game first-round series loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
So Nets GM Sean Marks may be faced with a difficult decision regarding Russell, who was acquired in a 2017 trade with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Russell’s teammates who spoke to the media on Wednesday all said they’d like him to return.
“We’ve obviously built a great chemistry together playing together the last couple of years, and I feel like it’s only going to get better growing in the future,” Caris LeVert said. “Whatever they decide to do, I’ll obviously support it, but I’d love to play with D’Angelo.”
In general, Nets players said that the franchise should be considered a free-agent destination this summer following their 14-win improvement from a season ago.
“The story before this was that the Nets were the worst team in the NBA. Even when we weren’t the worst team, we still were in the eyes of the public,” center Jarrett Allen said. “So just coming in here and showing we made the playoffs and we’ve got a lot of young talent, we made it a more attractive destination.”
The Nets may be competing with the crosstown New York Knicks for free agents. The Knicks project to have more than $70 million in cap space.
Brooklyn veteran Jared Dudley acknowledged that the Knicks will draw more media attention than the Nets because of the franchise’s history in the city.
“Nothing is going to change there. I don’t care, (Knicks owner James) Dolan could burn down Manhattan and they’re going to talk about the Knicks, let’s be honest,” Dudley said. “And so for us, the advantages they have here is, for one, the foundation and the culture we have. And not just in New York and in the NBA, one of the best young cores here.”
The Nets have six players on guaranteed contracts for next season (excluding Allen Crabbe‘s player option). One of their veteran free agents, DeMarre Carroll, said his wife will be deciding where he signs this summer.
“She said, ‘I’m dictating this free agency. It’s been 10 years and I’ve been sitting aside’ and she said ‘it’s my time,'” a smiling Carroll said of his wife. “So it’s her time, all I can do is sit back. I hope my wife picks a good destination and hopefully its back here, but we’ll see what happens.”