This season, his fourth in the league, Russell is having a career year, obliterating many of his previous career numbers across the board. He currently leads the Nets in scoring with nearly 20 points per game, and assists, with well over six per night.
“We just traveled from San Antonio, I heard the news and then coach Kenny Atkinson congratulated me and told me,” recalled Russell on Saturday before the Nets played the Orlando Magic. “I was just in awe.”
Many of Russell’s best performances, which subsequently landed him in the All-Star game, came in January, when he torched the NBA as the Nets continue their playoff push.
The team is currently in sixth place in the East, and has won 20 games since an 8-18 start. In January, Russell posted 23.8 points and 7.3 assists per game, while shooting 48 percent from the field, 41.3 percent from three, and 85.3 percent on free throws.
“It gave me chills,” said coach Kenny Atkinson, now in his third season at the helm for Brooklyn, on producing his first All-Star. “There’s a lot of work put in by him, so to see him be rewarded is a great testament to his work ethic.”
“At the end of the day, I’m 22, and a lot of these guys are a little older than me. I watched them on TV, I’ve dreamed of playing in that game,” added Russell. “I’m going to be starstruck, in awe the whole time.”
The Nets will also send a few others to be part of the All-Star Weekend festivities. Second-year center Jarrett Allen and rookie combo-forward Rodions Kurucs were both invited to the Rising Stars USA versus The World challenge, which will be played on Friday, February 15, two nights before the All-Star Game.
Allen is averaging 11 points, close to nine rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, while Kurucs has been good for over nine points and four rebounds per appearance.
Starting swingman Joe Harris will also compete in the three-point shootout. Harris is averaging over 13 points per game, making him the team’s fourth leading scorer, and he’s third in the NBA in three-point shooting, draining 45.3 percent from deep this season.
Lefrak City native and rookie guard Hamidou Diallo has been invited to compete in the slam dunk contest, which will take place on February 16.
Diallo is expected to participate, and has become a key contributor in his first season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who landed him in the second round of last June’s draft in a trade with the Nets.
Diallo, known locally for his uber-athleticism, is averaging 4.4 points through 12 minutes a night for the Thunder, and had a career-high 18 points against the Sacramento Kings on November 19.