If anybody said the Brooklyn Nets would begin the first five games of the season with the same record as the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, they wouldn't have been taken seriously.
The truth is, nobody predicted this but that's exactly what has happened as they've started with a 3-2 record which includes a shock win over the Cavaliers in their last outing.
A big reason for their good start is down to their biggest acquisition in the summer, D'Angelo Russell.
After giving up so many lottery picks to the Boston Celtics, the Nets needed to bring in a talented young player to potentially build the franchise around and secured a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers to bring in Russell.
The 21-year-old struggled to make an impact in L.A. after being selected with the number two overall pick in 2015.
Coupled with well documented off the court scandals, his time with the Lakers didn't go according to plan and he needed a change of scenery and a platform to showcase his skills.
In Brooklyn, Russell has been presented with the perfect opportunity to blossom into an NBA star as he will be a key part of head coach Kenny Atkinson's offence.
There's no doubting the talent he has, but the youngster is often questioned for his efforts in other areas such as defensively.
He's determined to change all the opinions about him and do his talking on the court in his new surroundings and make a name for himself in the Big Apple.
“You could easily be thrown into a situation in the league that doesn’t help yourself,” Russell said in an interview with Newsday.
“I feel like this situation is perfect for me, a young guy in the league, trying to find myself, and I’m going to get a lot of opportunity here. So that’s all you can really ask for. I just want to make it home. I don’t plan on getting traded [again] anytime soon. It’s not up to me. It’s always a business, but I want to make this my last stop, if possible.”
The former Ohio State product has made the perfect start to his career with the franchise. He currently leads the team with 23 points and 5.5 assists per game.
He already looks more comfortable and happier which is translating onto the court. He's willing to embrace a leadership role and will almost have exclusive ball-handling responsibilities after his backcourt partner Jeremy Lin was ruled out for the season with injury.
This could be a breakout year for Russell and the time for him to finally prove he can play at a high level on a consistent basis.
“Offensively, he fits into the style of play," coach Atkinson said. "I’ve been really impressed with the pace he’s been playing with at the offensive end. That’s been good. And his defence, especially on the ball, has been pretty good."
The third-year man feels he's in great hands with his new coach and expects to benefit from the philosophy he deploys.
“I would say Kenny lays out a great format just bringing that hard work, energy and intensity every day,” Russell said. “When you’re around that every day, you kind of adapt to it. All the coaches are the same way. I wouldn’t want to be in any other place.”
Playing for the league's most decorated franchise, D'Angelo was under pressure to turn the fortunes of the Lakers around and found it difficult dealing with the level of scrutiny that came his way.
He will be able to play with a lot more freedom at the Barclays Center and express himself the way he wants with a less demanding crowd.
This already has the makings of a big year for Russell and if things continue as they are, he could possibly lead the Nets into the playoffs.News Now - Sport News