G9 Nets vs Lakers: “WANTED: A Pass-First DLo to Win Ball Game”

D’Angelo Russell vs Lonzo Ball. Brook Lopez vs his old team that he played faithfully for nine seasons

The first game between the Lakers and the Nets offer a marquee match up that is simply too good to pass up. Brook Lopez’s first game against his old team will offer some sentimental values and Nets fans will root for him but the more intriguing match up is the PG matchup between Russell and Ball.

Will Magic Johnson be proven correct in making a strong statement about Russell not possessing the leadership skill after trading him and Timofey Mozgov for Brook Lopez in July 2017? “What I needed was a leader” comment was harsh enough but he continued by saying Russell cannot make the other players better and was not somebody that players want to play with.

No doubt this is a game that D’Angelo Russell (DLo) circled in his calendar and want so desperately to win to prove Magic Johnson and the Lakers wrong in choosing Lonzo Ball over him. But can he lead the Nets to win it?

Good DLo vs. Bad DLo

Basic NBA statistics offer revealing formula of Good DLo vs Bad DLo to lead to wins or losses. In 2 wins, DLo averaged 16.5 points and 8 assists with +7.3 when he was on court. But in four losses, he averaged 21.5 points and 3 assists with team-worst -22.4 when he was on court. He is certainly capable to post 8-10 assists as a pass-first Point Guard in two wins but unfortunately was more comfortable to be a scoring guard leading to four losses.

It is clear that the Nets benefit by winning two games when DLo chose to be a ball distributor more than a scorer in four losses. But how long would it take him as a 21-year old to realize he can mature quickly to be a leader by scoring less and passing more? The irony is the more DLo gives in to his desire to score, the more he proves Magic Johnson right by playing selfishly and not making his teammates better. Will Coach Atkinson or even GM Sean Marks manage to convince him to put his teammates first as a capable ball distributor to get much needed wins? Hopefully it does not take the whole 5-game road trip for him to figure out the winning pattern. The Nets need him to mature quickly to be their leader and he is fully capable of it. It is a matter of desire over skills.

In a twitter poll, 85% prefers Good DLo the ball distributor to help Nets win but interestingly 15% would rather see DLo as a high-scoring, low-assist guard despite the four losses. That 15% out of 335 people still translates to 50 people who do not mind losses as long as DLo keep scoring 21+ points per game.

DLo’s Lackadaisical Defense

Brian Lewis from NY Post highlighted another area of concern with DLo’s defense in his latest article “Where D’Angelo Russell is really hurting the Nets“. He also praised Spencer Dinwiddie’s PG ability to lead the 23-4 third-quarter charge in regain the lead over the Suns but DLo’s inability to lead his team to maintain 8-point lead and proceeded to allow an 18-2 run. It was certainly heartbreaking to see an almost win be snatched away so easily.

Russell has started every game when healthy this season, all at the point since Jeremy Lin’s season-ending knee injury. But it was Dinwiddie who led the 23-2 third-quarter charge Tuesday to get the lead, and Russell who checked back in with the Nets up 106-98 with 6:35 left and saw them promptly blow the game by allowing an 18-2 run.

The fact is Brooklyn’s offense has looked better with Russell off the ball, and their defense has looked better with him off the floor.
The young guard’s Defensive Rating of 117.2 was not only by far the worst on the team, it was 378th of 417 players on the NBA website. He was 10th-worst among all players who had logged at least 15 minutes. Several of those worse were just bit players; with Russell a building block. It’s a long-term issue Brooklyn must fix.

Russell has 6-foot-5 size, impressive length and quick hands, having shown a penchant for getting steals. But what he hasn’t done is pressure the ball the way Nets foes have this season, harassing and distracting opposing point guards.

Tonight will be a good test for D’Angelo Russell. Would he rather score 40 points in a 10-point loss or provide 10 assists to his Nets teammates in a 5-point win? It is time for Russell to show he can be a good leader for the Nets in Jeremy Lin’s absence. Or we get a chance to see Magic Johnson smiling widely after the game.

Jeremy Lin’s Recovery

Lin’s faithful fans continue to cheer him up by making poster board to cheer him up. He appears to be in good spirit as he is shown playing with his nephew and appreciated his fans’ well-wishes. Get well soon, Jeremy! Your fans still have your back cheering for you to come back stronger than ever in 2018-19 season.

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