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Nets backcourt of D’Lo and CL-Smooth is developing … and is still very new

Maybe there’s something to this?

D’Angelo Russell played 12 games last season before suffering a knee injury and going in for arthroscopic surgery, forcing a two-month exit. On his return, DLo was slowly integrated back into the rotation, not returning to the starting line-up until after the All-Star break.

He only played 48 games total.

Caris LeVert logged 71 appearances last season, starting only 10. In 2017-18, the two potential-packed prospects played in only 40 games together, eight of them starts. That’s just not a lot of time in the NBA.

Simply put, we just haven’t seen them together a lot. The D’Lo-CL Smooth backcourt is relatively new. So we have to expect the kind of multiple miscommunications that may —or may not— have contributed to the loss to New Orleans Friday. But we can also expect the dynamism we saw on Sunday…

Russell and LeVert led the 17-point comeback. Both prevailed over and over in the clutch, and although the Nets lost, they were outgunned by the best thing going in the league.

“I think we complement each other,” Russell said of the budding chemistry between he and LeVert. “I think we both are able to play off the ball. We’re both able to create. We just flow. We’ve got a chemistry that’s connecting well together. I think the next step is getting other guys involved at the same time and finishing games.”

Added LeVert, “I think that, with the games that we’ve been having, all of them are kind of coming down to a couple possession games. We’re getting a lot of experience with those situations.”

Currently, Russell is averaging 17.0 points, 6.0 assists and 4.2 rebounds, while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 48.7 percent from three-point range. (Over the last three, D’Lo’s numbers jump to 23.3, 6.0 and 4.0, with shooting percentages of 45.5 and 54.2!)

LeVert has scored a team-high 21.3 points per game, along with 4.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists. LeVert has also been efficient from the field, connecting on 51.6 percent overall and 36 percent from deep. (LeVert‘s 21 points Sunday was his fourth 20-point game through six games this season. CLV didn’t record his fourth 20-point game last season until his 54th game of the season).

In fact, you might argue that six games in, the two have stat-lines that could, perhaps, maybe knock on the All-Star door this season. And if the trend remains constant, it can impact the Nets beyond this season. Russell is 22, LeVert 24.

For now, Kenny Atkinson is basking in the possibilities.

“I just like how they’re sharing among each other,” he said after the loss to Golden State. “I sound like a proud parent. They’re just finding a nice chemistry depending on the match-up, whose guarding him, they’re kind of figuring out how they can share the ball and that it’s not just one guy. That’s the way the league is now.

“I thought they both made plays, especially toward the end. I thought Golden State got a little fatigued there and we kept pushing forward and made a good run.”

But the Nets are only 2-4, with three losses of four points or fewer. For now, the next goal isn’t the All-Star Game or next year. It’s winning.



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