Sometimes, it takes time. Sometimes it actually takes four years, which, in a sporting world ruled by instant gratification, can seem like a career and a half. Sometimes there is genuine value to waiting, to patience, to letting talent bloom and allowing confidence to grow.
Sometimes, you get D’Angelo Russell, right in front of your eyes.
“We know how good he is,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson says. “It’s fun to watch right now.”
He was fun to watch Saturday, for sure. It wasn’t that Russell was the only reason the Nets jumped the Sixers in Game 1 of these Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Few wins as significant as this one happen thanks to only one set of hands. Caris LeVert was terrific. Ed Davis stepped up with 12 points and 16 rebounds off the bench, and was an otherworldly plus-28 for his 25 minutes on the floor.
Still, even with so many folks leading such a steady, balanced attack, it was impossible to keep your eyes off Russell, who controlled so much of the game’s flow, who was the best player on the floor, and who played with a steadiness that belied the fact that this 26-point effort was his first-ever appearance in an NBA playoff game.
Most of all: He looked like he belonged, from the very start, like this was a moment and a place he was born to.
“I trust our offense” Russell said at game’s end. “We have great minds behind it. Coach set us up earlier this season with a routine and recipe for the offense and it’s been flowing ever since. We’ve got the right pieces to keep it going. You got guys like Caris and Spencer [Dinwiddie] that it’s hard to stay in front of those guys, then you add Joe Harris and other guards and to capitalize on that, it’s fun to be a part of.”