NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — D’Angelo Russell’s first move as a Brooklyn Net was taking the high road.
The 21-year-old guard, acquired in a trade with the Lakers last week, was asked at his introductory news conference Monday about Los Angeles president Magic Johnson saying of Russell: “We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader. I needed somebody also that can make the other players better and also (somebody) that players want to play with.”
“It’s good to be here,” he said. “Can’t really control that — what they say. I’m gone. So it’s the past. I’m here now. It’s irrelevant, honestly.”
In the trade, the Nets added Russell, the second overall pick in the 2015 draft, and center Timofey Mozgov. Brooklyn gave up center Brook Lopez — the franchise’s all-time leading scorer — and the 27th pick in last week’s draft, which was used on Utah forward Kyle Kuzma.
“Where we are in our life cycle and how we’re growing here, these two fit,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said of Russell and Mozgov. “They fit with what we’re trying to do here. We’re thrilled to have them. We’re excited to welcome them into our Nets family.”
Russell said the trade surprised him.
“Never really been traded before, so didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “But I’m here now. I’m beyond excited.”
He added that he likes what he’s hearing from coaches and players in his first days in Brooklyn.
“Everybody’s on the same page,” Russell said. “Just the camaraderie with everybody. The staff, the players — everybody’s really intact with each other. You could tell everybody’s hungry around here, really wants to get back to where they want to be.”
When asked if he was surprised that someone of Russell’s caliber became available, Marks said: “I think this is being opportunistic. Looking at what the Lakers were dealing with, we’re always in that talent-acquisition mode here, and we will be for a while. But again, adding a player, specifically D’Angelo being 21 — we could have easily drafted somebody who was a year older than D’Angelo. So the fact that we get somebody here 21 years old, can develop with (coach) Kenny (Atkinson) and our player-development coaches and our coaches, as I said many times, that’s what I’m banking on.”
Russell averaged 15.6 points and 4.8 assists per game last season.
Meanwhile, the trade reunites Mozgov with Atkinson, who was an assistant with the Knicks when the Russian center started his NBA career in 2010.
“Timmy fits perfectly. He’s a competitive player,” Atkinson said. “He’s a guy that loves to run the court. He’s a physical player. I think he rolls to the rim in the pick-and-roll, which we love. But really at the end of the day, I love the person. I was around him, obviously with the Knicks. Loved being around him, loved being around his family. So he fits a culture we’re trying to build and (is) a competitive, high-character guy.”
Mozgov, too, said he’s excited about joining the Nets.
“It’s like a big family to me, like already, being here like two days,” he said. “I love it already. Just looking forward to being a part of it.”
Mozgov played in 54 games last season (52 starts) and averaged 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds. In 2016, he was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ world championship team.
“Timmy’s seen it all,” Atkinson said. “He’s seen organizations in different phases. So the fact that he was around a group that won a championship is so important, and (he) played an important role in that.”
Both Marks and Atkinson made a point to pay tribute to Lopez during the news conference.
“He was a joy to coach,” Atkinson said. “I loved being around him. He’s an all-time Net. Again, I thought he had a great season.”
Report: McDaniels Option Declined
The Nets plans to decline the team option for guard K.J. McDaniels, The Vertical reported.
Brooklyn acquired McDaniels in a trade with the Rockets in February. He came off the bench in 20 games, averaging 14.7 minutes, 6.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.5 assists.
The Nets would have had to pay McDaniels nearly $3.5 million next season if they had picked up the option.