D'Angelo Russell nearing his return for Brooklyn Nets

"To be determined" says Atkinson of guard's status for Friday's home game

The D’Angelo Russell watch is winding down.

“Excited,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson before Wednesday night’s game against the Spurs at Barclays Center. “It’s trending in the right direction. I think we’re getting close.”’

Russell’s status for Friday night’s home game against the Miami Heat is still up in the air – “to be determined,” said Atkinson – but he’s clearly nearing his return to game action.

Wednesday’s game against San Antonio was the 32nd Russell missed since he last played against Utah on November 11. He had arthroscopic knee surgery the following week. While playing 12 of Brooklyn’s first 13 games, Russell led the Nets with 20.9 points per game and averaged 4.7 assists.

Russell returned to basketball activities last week in a practice with the Long Island Nets, and practiced with the G League team again this past Monday. He took part in shootaround on Wednesday morning with the Nets.

“Played 3-on-3 after,” said Atkinson. “Really good 3-on-3 reports.”

Russell’s impending return will cap an intensive preparation to be ready for game action.

“He’s been on a regimented, regimented rehab program that quite honestly, you’re talking four or five hours a day. You’re talking correctives, rehab, medical visits. They’re doing more than our guys are doing,” said Atkinson when asked about the maturity displayed this season by both Russell and recently acquired center Jahlil Okafor. “They’re not playing games, but in terms of preparing themselves to get ready, I do think that helps them grow up. There’s high-level responsibility to that type of program. And they’ve been on time, worked their tails off.

“I told D’Angelo, I think in the long run this will be a positive for you. Just having to dig in like you’re digging in. It’s his job, but it’s impressive.”

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