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D’Angelo Russell emerged as an All-Star and the Brooklyn Nets emerged as a team that could be at least scary for years to come.
But now comes the business part of the game, the part in which the front office, agents and some players will be walking on eggshells as everyone tries to work out the next contract.
For Russell and the Nets, that comes this offseason — as the 23-year-old point guard is set to enter restricted free agency.
Russell averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists as the Nets returned to the playoffs before being eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers in five games.
So far, Russell is saying all the right things.
“Hell yeah, I definitely want to be here,” he said. “But I also know it’s a business too, so I’m not going to play that role like I don’t know what could possibly happen.”
With Russell, the Nets have a talented young core that also includes the likes of Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Jarret Allen. But like most teams, they could also use another All-Star-type.
“We’re a young, talented group, but you’ve also got to bring in a really, really talented player or players,” veteran forward DeMarre Carroll said. “And that’s the reality of the thing, because the young guys are going to continue to keep getting better — they were great this year. Then you’ve got veteran leaders who are going to definitely help those young guys out, but sometimes you’ve got to have a game-changer and I think what’s what Brooklyn’s going to try to do this year.”
Brian Lewis of the New York Post suggested Russell could seek a maximum-level contract this offseason. That would make sense. It’s a safe bet the Nets and many opposing teams would at least be willing to come close.
But general manager Sean Marks will have lots to figure out this season beyond just Russell. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Ed Davis, Jared Dudley, Shabazz Napier and Carroll are also Nets free agents.
Still, it all begins with Russell and whatever other major free agent the Nets hope to sign.
“You have to improve, some way, somehow,” Davis said. “I’ve never been on a team where you brought back the same group. So that’s not going down. That ain’t happening.”