The Nets’ free-agent pitch to D’Angelo Russell isn’t going to happen today or tomorrow. It’s been ongoing since they traded for him. Now both sides are going to have some tough calls to make this summer.
For Russell, he’ll have to determine what he can get, and how much he’s willing to accept. And Nets GM Sean Marks will have to weigh the cost of keeping the young guard versus the risk of letting him go.
“If you look at D’Angelo — and you could lump a lot of our guys into this — [you weigh] how they’ve developed, how their habits have changed over the course of not only this season, but the seasons we’ve had them here,” Marks said. “Our job is to establish the identity of what a Net is. Our job is to continue to put talent on the roster.
“He’s obviously one of our more talented players. You said we’ll have decisions. D’Angelo is going to have decisions, too. That is a little bit of the nature of this business. But at the end of the day, our job is to continue to put talent on the floor for Brooklyn.”
The Nets can lock up Russell, or give him a qualifying offer and let him hit unrestricted free agency. He’d have a $21 million cap hold, money they couldn’t use to even offer — much less sign — any other free agents without renouncing him.
Russell is eligible for a four-year, $117 million deal from any other team, or five-year, $158 million max deal from the Nets that starts at $27.5 million next season. While such an offer seems unlikely, sources have told The Post he’d like to get as close as possible.
Restricted free agency can be sticky. Marks has made it so for other teams in the past. But in this case, communication will be key.
“The conversations that have taken place are over the entire time that he’s been here,” Marks said. “And those conversations are between he and Kenny [Atkinson], they’re between myself and D’Angelo, they’re between the doctors and the performance team, the staff. And it’s really about a holistic view about how we care for our guys.
“That’s part of the restricted free-agent pitch, for him. It’s not going to happen in one day or one hour or a 15-minute conversation. This is something that’s happened for 18 months or two years or however long these guys are here. D’Angelo knows how we feel about him. Our job is to keep talent on the floor, and to get better talent and to keep developing that talent. So we’ll see where it all ends up.”
There is a risk here. Russell isn’t just the Nets’ most popular player (2.8 million followers on Instagram), he’s the first All-Star they’ve actually developed since 2013. For a team that preaches development, and saw Russell buy in, what’s the risk of not inking him?
“It’s something we have to keep navigating and see where it will go. The question was more along the lines of he won’t be back: But he’s a Net. As of right now, he’s a Brooklyn Net. That hasn’t changed,” said Marks, not oblivious to the risk. “I understand the business of it. I’ve packed my bags many, many times. And I’ve also seen the dynamic in the locker room where it changes. It’s about having the right leadership in there.
“It’s about having the right vets and having honest questions with your guys. You never want to lead them astray. And I give Kenny a lot of credit because he’s done it on a nightly/daily basis, having honest conversations. That’s where a lot of the respect comes from. … That should really go through the entire organization.”