D'Angelo Russell hasn't stopped moving for over 10 years.
Like a life form that needs to stay in motion to survive, Russell's basketball career since he was a teenager has been all about movement.
This transitory existence has become habitual and unfortunately familiar. It's what Russell knows, even if it's not how he would prefer to have spent his life.
"You get numb to it," the Timberwolves guard said. "Things you used to care about, you don't care about. You come across so many people as well and you become numb to them as well. I don't know. You're kind of numb to all feeling. … I'm not used to real feelings."
Basketball was a way he and his parents, Keisha Rowe and Antonio Sr., helped him avoid the dangerous trappings of the Louisville, Ky., neighborhoods where he grew up. So he traveled for AAU tournaments.
He left for good his sophomore year to attend basketball powerhouse Montverde Academy in Florida, and it's been short layovers ever since — one year at Ohio State, two with the Lakers, two with the Nets, less than one with the Warriors and now, approaching one year with the Wolves — never finding a place to lay his head more than a short while.
Over the past few years Russell would visit his contemporaries, such as Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and Suns guard Devin Booker, and he would see their homes were, well, homes. Not just places to lay your head for a while. Not something they rented. Something they owned and made their own.
Russell, meanwhile, could never feel settled. He had a habit of never unpacking his bags no matter where he was living, since the next phone call might tell him he had been traded again. Time to get moving.
"We would come over here to Minnesota [to visit Towns] and that's his home," said Antonio Russell, one of D'Angelo's four siblings — three brothers and a sister. "He has pictures of his family. His family comes during the holidays, and it's the same with Devin. His family lives out there in Phoenix. It's home. That was something that not only myself, but D'Angelo was yearning for that."
Even though it took him a circuitous route to get here, it's something Russell hopes he has found in Minnesota as the point guard of the future and present — someone the Wolves hope to build around along with Towns.
"Now, when I come home, I'm unpacking the bags," said Russell, who turns 25 on Feb. 23. "My kitchen is stocked. My laundry is put up. It's not just somewhere that I could just grab and go."
Finding his footing
During a recent phone interview following a Wolves practice, Russell was asked how he felt about each of the three times NBA teams traded him.
"Should I walk you down memory lane?" Russell said. "Or should we keep it short?"
Memory lane, please.
First came the trade to the Nets. After Russell was the No. 2 pick behind Towns in the 2015 NBA draft, he wasn't the centerpiece of the Lakers franchise. His first year in Los Angeles was Kobe Bryant's last, and that took up a lot of space in the organization. After Russell was dealt to Brooklyn in 2017, then-Lakers President Magic Johnson questioned Russell's leadership.
"If you come from where we come from, it motivates you someone telling you you're not this, or that or the other," Antonio Russell said.
Added Russell: "I go to Brooklyn, I kind of felt like I was borderline established in the league. I'm sure my peers and coaches thought otherwise, but me mentally I felt like I was two feet in."
Russell revived his career in Brooklyn and said the mixture of teammates he played with helped change how he approached his career. He was an All-Star in 2019, his second season with the Nets, when he averaged 21.1 points and seven assists per game.
"I had a reality check," Russell said. "I was around some players that were fighting for a position. Nothing was really given to them. Spencer [Dinwiddie], Joe Harris, Caris [Levert], those guys. They had a rough kind of coming up. It wasn't easy for them."
Getting to Minnesota
That altered outlook turned Russell into a player that fielded a max offer in the summer of 2019 from the Warriors in free agency. The Wolves also made a strong push, but their offer stopped short of the max. Russell took the maximum contract as a sign of respect, his earned place in the league after those early doubts.
"He felt that's what he was worth," Antonio Russell said. "Golden State made that an opportunity and we're forever thankful for that. They changed his life regardless of anything else that comes. They believed him to be that guy and it changed him, changed for the better and it changed his family."
Russell had a say in where he went after Brooklyn, but the Nets essentially forced him out of town to make room to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The deal became official as part of a sign-and-trade with Durant.
That made three NBA teams in five years, not to mention the moving around Russell did before becoming a pro.
"You talk to people, you got your antenna up and you're just like, 'This is going to be [bad] all over again,' " Russell said. "You're dealing with renting a home, you're not looking at a home to long-term live in, you know it's going to be temporary, so everything you come across, you have a temporary mentality with this.
"I didn't enjoy that. But that's what my life was at the time."
A new sense of home, self
After missing out in free agency, Wolves President Gersson Rosas never gave up on his pursuit of Russell, who he sees as the perfect complement basketball-wise to Towns. He finally landed him in a trade last February that sent Andrew Wiggins and a top-three protected first-round pick in this year's draft to Golden State.
"You've got a playmaking guard, who fits in great with maybe the most versatile skilled center in the league right now," Rosas said shortly after the trade. "The ability to execute our vision with those two as the pillars of who we are and how we play was very enticing."
The Wolves held as big a welcome as they could for Russell the night they traded for him. Wolves staff gathered at an airport hangar to greet Russell's jet, as did Towns.
"It's surreal to really think that instead of us just talking on the phone or playing video games with each other and talking about how our teams are doing and everything, but now we're getting to do this every day with each other," Towns said then. "He's never just been a friend of mine. He's been a brother of mine."
As Russell walked in the hangar to loud cheering, he had his camera out wanting to film every second.
"My life is a movie …" Russell said. "Being able to travel and go to all these places and meet all these people, just with the doors that basketball has opened up for me, I treat it like a movie. I tell my camera guy don't press cut."
Russell gets to settle down in the next act of that movie. On the court, he has preached patience with a young Wolves team that has struggled as Towns has been out of the lineup much of the season.
When fans might be panicking, Russell has advised them to keep their eyes on the long-term.
Underscoring that he is in it for the long haul: Russell recently bought a house in Minnesota. He now has ample space for his three dogs to roam and recently installed a golf simulator after finding a passion for that.
Russell has roots now in Minneapolis in addition to Louisville. Both places were at the epicenter of social justice movements this summer, with George Floyd's killing in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor's in Louisville at the hands of police sparking protests, calls for justice for each victim and demands for ending systemic racism.
Russell attended a rally in honor of Taylor over the summer and addressed a crowd of people with a megaphone, something he said he was nervous to do.
"He gives so many kids hope in various things that he's doing within the community that it was not only the right thing to do, it's what he had to do," Antonio Russell said.
Said D'Angelo: "I wanted to be a leader in the situation … and I give credit to my support team for educating me from that lens. For that example, specifically Breonna Taylor, I was a little late to the topic, a little late to what was going on in that specific realm, but Antonio was like, 'This is huge in the city, right up the street.' "
That burgeoning role as a leader off the court coincides with Russell's increasing responsibilities on it. Nobody ever gave Russell the keys to a franchise before this. Bryant was still with the Lakers. He was an All-Star, but wasn't the centerpiece in Brooklyn, while Golden State had its championship core already in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
In Minnesota, he and Towns are the future.
"It's totally new to me, but I'm prepared for it …" Russell said. "When I was a rookie, it wasn't the same. I didn't have the keys. I was looking up at the situation. So now I feel like I'm looking down, or I'm looking eye to eye I would say, at the situation as far as attacking it the right way and controlling what I can control."
The Wolves are Russell's fourth NBA team in six seasons. All that moving has caused him to be more cynical about the people who come into his life, to constantly have his "antenna up" as he said.
Has he been able to let his guard down in Minnesota?
"I'm from where I'm from and went through what I went through, so it's never, 'Let it down,' " Russell said. "But I feel like I have a pretty good judge of character. We have pretty good character people here that make it easy to come to work and go about your business."
Then when his day is done, Russell can go home.