NEW YORK (WFAN) — D’Angelo Russell sees similarities between him and his new crosstown rival, Kristaps Porzingis.
“I feel like we both have young teams, just trying to put the teams back on the map or give them that extra buzz that they deserve,” the Nets point guard told WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Thursday. “New York fans want that — the Nets or the Knicks, the Jets or the Giants. Whoever it is, they want that. They want to be able to brag about their teams. I think we’re two young guys trying to bring that back.”
Brooklyn acquired Russell in a trade with the Lakers in June. The second overall pick in the 2015 draft, Russell, like Porzingis, who went two picks after him, are now the young faces of New York’s two NBA teams.
When asked what his initial reaction was when he learned he had been traded, Russell said: “Honestly, I was excited. I was excited to get a new opportunity to start over. But it definitely caught me off-guard. You know, you see guys get traded. You never think it would happen to you, until it does.”
The 21-year-old Russell said he didn’t take the trade personally because he understood it was a business decision. He also brushed off comments by Lakers president Magic Johnson that “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 is what it is,” Russell said. “They’re the Lakers. We’re the Nets. And it’s nothing we can control over there, and there’s nothing they can control over here. I don’t really like looking back and really speaking on that, honestly.”
After finishing with the NBA’s worst record last season, the rebuilding Nets will have several new faces aside from Russell — centers Timofey Mozgov and Jarrett Allen, shooting guard Allen Crabbe, small forward DeMarre Carroll. Mozgov was acquired in the same trade with the Lakers that brought Russell to Brooklyn.
Russell cautioned people against sleeping on this season’s Nets.
“I think we have an underrated group of guys,” he said. “We’ve got a few good vets sprinkled in there, and we’ve got some young talent that’s still earning its way in this league. I feel like we could definitely put something together. And you’re seeing how hard guys are working, so I think that will play its part also.”
To listen to the interview, click on the audio player above.