LAS VEGAS — New Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell understands he might get traded in the future as Golden State looks to reshape its roster, but he is excited about the chance to pair with Stephen Curry and the defending Western Conference champions after being acquired in a sign-and-trade from the Brooklyn Nets for Kevin Durant.
“That’s the business of it,” Russell said when asked whether he has been given any indication from the Warriors that they want to keep him long term. “It is what it is. You put yourself in a position to go somewhere for a long period of time, and it may not be what it is a year later. And that’s the business. I’ve come to a realization of that, and I understand that, so whatever situation I’m in, I know the business side of it, so we’ll just see. I can’t predict it.”
Russell is now the proud owner of his own max contract worth $117 million over four years in the wake of the deal that surprised many in the league.
“It was a lot of surprises,” Russell said. “Just all around throughout the free-agency [period]. So I think it was just one to add to it, honestly.”
Russell said he knew he could land with the Warriors as free agency opened but was waiting to see where the other big pieces landed first. Once Durant committed to sign with the Nets, the Warriors did not want to lose their former star forward for nothing, so they engineered the move to bring Russell in.
“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.”
Russell said that as he entered into the free-agency process, he wasn’t sure whether he would be back in Brooklyn.
“I had no idea,” he said. “I know I understand the business of the league, so when things like that come to the light, it’s more of a ‘let’s go’ [attitude]. So I understood.”
Russell, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, said he appreciated his time with the Nets but understood his future might not be with the team he helped lead to the playoffs last season. The Nets landed both Durant and point guard Kyrie Irving, making the 23-year-old guard expendable.
“I mean, you knew what it could be,” Russell said. “Every situation was kinda like looking in the mirror if it’s real. All of it could possibly happen — you saw the moves that have been made this summer. I thought it was good. They definitely got better by adding a good group of guys. It’s all about opportunity in this league, so taking advantage of it is what it was.”
The Warriors are hoping Russell can help them bridge the gap as Klay Thompson recovers from a torn left ACL that is expected to keep him out for most of the regular season. While Russell noted he has been given no indication about a potential long-term future with the organization, the widespread speculation is that Russell will ultimately be dealt down the line for a different package of players.
“You just got to go through it,” he said of blocking out trade speculation. “I think you go through it once, you [see] what it is and what it can be and then go from there.”
In the short term, Russell is confident that a pairing with Curry and Thompson, when he’s healthy, can work for a team that has always loved getting up and down the floor.
“Honestly, I’m excited,” Russell said. “I’m excited more than anything. I think it’s a huge opportunity just to take another step and learn from a good group of guys that have done — and marked their way in this league, so I’m super excited.”
Russell said Thompson’s injury had no bearing on his decision to land with the Warriors. Like many around the league, Russell was intrigued by the opportunity to play with Curry, on top of being able to sign for max money.
“You got guys that can shoot, dribble and play make for others,” Russell said. “That’s a dangerous combo. And then a guy like him that gets hot anytime throughout the game, it’s something that gives you an advantage throughout a game, I would say. So to add another guy that could possibly do that consistently — I think it’s just an extra piece.”
Curry’s presence is also what helped free-agent center Willie Cauley-Stein decide to sign with the Warriors. Cauley-Stein said he has followed the Warriors for years and has been thinking a lot about playing in the organization’s offensive system alongside great shooters such as Curry and Thompson.
“I’ve been imagining it for a while,” Cauley-Stein said of the spacing that comes with playing with Curry and Thompson. “It’s crazy that it’s actually happening. Me and my friends talk about it all the time. Just how guys can damn near not guard me now because they have to guard Klay, Steph, DLo. Like, how are you going to guard the big? ‘Cause you got to tag; if you don’t tag, then it’s a lob. If you tag, then it’s a 3, so it’s pick your poison.”