LAS VEGAS -- More than a week ago, the Warriors grappled with the possibility of losing All-Star forward Kevin Durant for nothing in free agency. Instead, they engineered a sign-and-trade and acquired D'Angelo Russell.
Now, as the summer unfolds, Golden State's All-Star consolation prize is primed to make an impact on his new team.
“I’m excited more than anything,” Russell said prior to Golden State's Summer League game against the Lakers on Monday, his first public comments since signing with the team. “It’s a huge opportunity just to take another step and learn from a great group of guys that marked their way in this league.”
Russell -- who agreed to a four year, $117 million extension to complete the sign-and-trade -- averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists in 81 games for the Nets last season. With Brooklyn pursuing a Durant-Kyrie Irving partnership, it opened the door for Russell's Golden State arrival.
"I knew it was an opportunity," Russell said. "I knew it was something that could possibly be true. And we had to wait 'til a few other pieces kind of did what it did, and then it kind of came to the light."
To accommodate Russell’s maximum contract, the Warriors dealt Andre Iguodala and a lightly protected 2024 first-round pick to the Grizzlies. Additionally, Russell's addition all but squandered any hope of retaining free agents DeMarcus Cousins, Jordan Bell and Quinn Cook. However, despite the fact Russell signed for a large number, there have been murmurs he could be traded next summer to free up cap space or find a top-flight free agent.
“That’s the business of it. It is what it is,” Russell said. “You just put yourself in a position to go somewhere a long period of time. It may not be what it is and that’s the business. I’ve come to a realization of that, and I understand that. So every situation I’m in, I know the business side of it. We’ll see. I can’t predict it.”
Russell joins the Warriors during a transition period for the franchise. With Durant gone, Klay Thompson out for several more months and a Western Conference that's seen the Lakers and Clippers add All-Stars, the Warriors are no longer prohibitive favorites to win the title for the first time in a half-decade. Still, Russell believes his talent will more than help.
“It’s all about opportunity in this league,” Russell said. “So it’s about taking advantage of it.”