D'Angelo Russell has big plans for success after move to Warriors

D'Angelo Russell has big plans for success after move to Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO – D’Angelo Russell credits luck for his nine-figure contract and presence in the NBA. Now that he has secured the bag, and the ability to buy anything he or his family desires, he can cruise, right? Count money by day, jack up shots at night, party in the wee hours.

Except his memories and goals won’t allow that. Russell has experienced a few hard knocks, and he has bounced up every time. He knows what might happen if he were to stay down.

That much is obvious in hearing his sober response to a question I asked after the Warriors practiced Tuesday.

What motivates you to want to be great?

“Just knowing where I come from,” he said. “Not a lot of people make it out where I’m from.”

Russell grew up mostly on the west end of Louisville, Ky. Louisville has the highest violent crime rate in Kentucky, more than three times that of the rest of the state. West Louisville has the highest violent crime rate in the city, as it was most afflicted with the grand slam of urban despair: Joblessness, substance abuse, assaults and murders.

Russell and his two brothers, Antonio and LeShawn, always have had a bond, sometimes competitive (one-on-one games could get nasty) and other times quite tight. His father, Antonio Russell, Sr., and his mother, Keisha Rowe, were devoted to keeping the boys safe and out of trouble. They didn’t always succeed, but what “trouble” they found usually was minor, such as young D’Angelo squabbling with a middle school teacher he says lied on him.

There was, for Russell, a measure of stability not available to many in the neighborhood. Thankfully, he also had basketball. After initially going to Louisville Central High – the same school Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, attended in the 1950s – D’Angelo left at age 15 to attend Montverde Academy, a boarding school in Florida.

It was there that Russell learned he had a chance to be special. NBA special. He grew into the star guard on a national powerhouse and received dozens of scholarship offers. He gazed right through the factories in his home state, University of Louisville and University of Kentucky.

D’Angelo chose Ohio State, considered by some to be an odd choice. No matter. It was the only visit he took, and he was hooked. it took him “a while” to realize just how good he was.

“When I first got there, it was straight, my head down, plan on being here for three or four years; that was what our program was,” Russell said. “Just coming in with that mentality that I’m going to be here (for a while). I’m going to get comfortable.

“And then, all of a sudden, I looked up and the success was there.”

Russell lasted one year with the Buckeyes, leaving Columbus, Ohio after a freshman season during which he averaged 19.3 points and 5.0 assists. By the time he turned 19 late in the season, he had established himself as the team leader.

Two months later, he declared for the 2015 NBA draft and was taken second overall by the Lakers. He displayed some immaturity, according to coach Byron Scott, and notably became infamous for recording teammate Nick Young discussing sexual exploits with someone other than his fiancée, Australian hip-hop artist Iggy Azalea.

It was a prank gone wrong that broke an engagement and shattered any trust with Russell’s teammates. He was traded to Brooklyn 15 months later, after team executive Magic Johnson concluded he was not leadership material.

These accusations explain why there was some surprise that, after two years with Nets, including an All-Star season in 2018-19, the Warriors would be interested.

They believe in Russell, presented him with a contract worth $117.3 million. They said so when they acquired him in July and they continue to say it. They see a talented combo guard who can help keep defenses honest and, therefore, help Steph Curry.

It is, for Russell, something of a crossroads. If he thrives, he becomes a verified star. If not, he risks being vilified.

Which would disrupt his plan to reach his NBA peak and share his experiences and economic power with those who need help. Like a lot of folks on the west end of Louisville.

“Just getting that platform to showcase the work that I put in to get here, the route that I took to get here, and the work that I put in to stay here,” Russell said. “I try to be able to go home and sprinkle that onto the other players. And just hearing the questions they ask me, as if I was 30 years old and I’m 20-something. It’s kind of cool to see that. That’s my motivation.”

Russell wants to be, in some form, a man who makes a difference. It’s a goal as lofty as it is commendable.

[RELATED: D-Lo rounding into shape with Dubs]

I asked Russell how he made it out Louisville when so many others did not.

“A lot of luck. A lot of luck,” he said. “You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time and have a lot of luck on your side to make it to this level.”

You also have to have specials gifts and be committed to making the most of them.

Warriors list three players as probable for season opener vs. Clippers


Warriors list three players as probable for season opener vs. Clippers

With opening night just two days away, the Warriors finally are starting to get healthy.

After practice Tuesday, the team announced that Kevon Looney (hamstring), Alec Burks (ankle) and Marquese Chriss (left toe infection) are probable against the Clippers.

"Last couple days, getting a lot of work in. Been able to play some 5-on-5, so feeling good," Looney told reporters. "I tweaked my hamstring -- second time doing it in a couple weeks -- so just wanted to play it safe, and make sure I was 100 percent before I got back out there and play.

"Feel great now, feel comfortable on the court -- trying to get my wind under me."

It's unclear at this point if the 23-year-old -- who missed all five preseason games -- or Chriss will start at center.

Looney revealed that the first hamstring tweak occurred during a summer workout.

[RELATEDMagic explains why Jordan says Curry not Hall of Famer yet]

"I was ready for training camp, I was feeling good the first couple days," he explained. "I just aggravated it so we wanted to be safe."

Burks, meanwhile, missed the entire preseason slate of games after rolling his ankle in practice the day before the opener.

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram

Warriors predictions: How new trio of stars could finish statistically

Warriors predictions: How new trio of stars could finish statistically

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The Warriors are on the cusp of a new era of basketball at Chase Center. Led by familiar faces in Steve Kerr, Steph Curry, Draymond Green (and from the sideline Klay Thompson) the Warriors are about to embark on a season that will feature a youthful roster with a new look.

With a revamped cast of characters will come different team strategy and chemistry that should lead to bigger responsibilities for key Warriors.

Here are some statistical predictions for these players:

Steph Curry

Over 32 points per game
Over 14 three-point attempts per game

It has been well-chronicled how much the Warriors will rely on Steph to lead them this season, and with that will come an increase in usage on the court. Curry's season-high scoring average was 30.1 points per game in his unanimous MVP season of 2015-16.

That season, he attempted a little over 20 field goals a game and 11 three-pointers a game. I expect both of those numbers to rise, especially his attempts from long distance.

Last season Curry took a career-high 11.7 shots per game from deep, but that included him sharing the ball with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. With an increase in volume, opposing defense's attention and more energy exertion could come with a less glossy shooting efficiency, especially from within the arc.

But if the Warriors have any chance at "surprising" folks this season, Steph is going to have to lead the charge and insert himself back into the MVP conversation. These numbers should do that.

Draymond Green

Over 33 percent three-point percentage

Since the 2015-16 campaign in which Green shot a career-high three-point percentage of nearly 39 percent, his ability from long-range has faltered.

ver the past three seasons, Draymond has not surpassed 31 percent from deep, which has allowed defenses to sag off of him and dare him to shoot. This season he will have the green light to shoot more, which should help his confidence to fire away even when his shot is not falling earlier in the game.

It is highly unlikely that Green ever repeats his 39 percent mark, but shooting over 33 percent would be enough to keep a defense more honest, and allow more spacing for the offense. 

D'Angelo Russell

Over 23 points per game
Over 38 percent three-point percentage

Like Curry, the Warriors will be relying on Russell to put up points and lead their offense.

The staggering between Curry and Russell's minutes will help him get the rhythm and volume he needs to reach a new career-high in points per game, surpassing the 21.1 he scored last season with the Nets.

On the flip side, when Curry and Russell share the floor, D'Angelo will have more open shots than he has ever experienced before in his young NBA career, which in turn should be able to raise his three-point percentage over his career-high from last season, 36.9 percent.

[RELATED: KD forgives Raptors fans, but says Warriors fans are better]

The ingredients are in place for the 23-year-old to shine with his new team.