A week after appearing in his first NBA All-Star game, Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell celebrated his 23rd birthday on the 23rd of February in Charlotte, N.C. The Nets played the Charlotte Hornets that Saturday evening, a narrow 117-115 Net win.

Russell, from Louisville, Ky., also the birth place of Muhammad Ali, scored 40 points that night, tying his career high, 14 of 31 shots from the field. Six threes as well as 7 assists. His three with 39 seconds left in the game gave the Nets the lead.

Russell had started the All-Star break by scoring 36 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds in Brooklyn’s defeat of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

About a month after his birthday, March 19, Russell would have a new career high: 44 points, dropping 27 of them in the fourth quarter against the Sacramento Kings. Another two-point road win for the Nets.

In the 14 games between the end of January and the beginning of this month (March), Russell led Brooklyn in scoring 13 out of 14 games, averaging 27.2 points per.

In the one game that Russell was outscored, by teammate Joe Harris, Russell logged a double-double, 21 points, 13 assists behind Harris’ 26, a 111-106 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, the team that drafted him in 2015, and traded him in 2017.

“This is definitely where I started. It’s definitely a place that gave me an opportunity,” said Russell, who declared himself eligible for the draft after spending one season with Ohio State. The Lakers chose the 2014 McDonald’s All-American and 2014 Jordan Brand Classic participant for their roster with the second pick in the first round. Karl-Anthony Towns was selected first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

As a freshmen at Ohio State, Russell averaged 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5 assists with 1.6 steals per game. He averaged 33.9 minutes in the 35 games that he played. His career high was 33 points, and Russell was the first OS Buckeye freshman to ever record a triple-double, 23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists.

Russell’s performance earned him the Oscar Robertson Trophy, the Wayman Tisdale Award and the Jerry West Award. He was named first-team All-American, first-team All-Big Ten and Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

With the Lakers, Russell averaged 13.2 points, 3.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 80 games as a rookie. As a sophomore during 62 games, Russell upped his numbers to 15.6 points, 4.8 assists with 3.5 rebounds. He sat out 20 games due to calf and knee injuries.

The Lakers trading Russell to Brooklyn is paying off for this rebuilding Nets team. Averaging 20.9 points per game, 7 assists, 3.7 rebounds, he’s quietly, slightly under the radar, becoming their Westbrook, their Harden. They’ve unexpectedly thrived this season after a 12th place, 28 and 54 finish last season. They’re currently battling for a 6-seed in this season’s playoffs, which begin next month (April).

Led by Russell, who hit for 39 with 8 assists and 9 rebounds in Monday night’s close double overtime 148-144 loss to the Portland Trailblazers, the Nets are back on the east coast after their six-game west coast road trip playing in Philadelphia tonight, Thursday (seven consecutive games on the road), against the 76ers before re-opening Barclays Center for a game against the top seeded Boston Celtics on Saturday, the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday and the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.