Throughout the reporting of a recent story on John Wall, one other participant repeatedly labored his means into conversations: Kevin Durant. Over the previous couple of months, as Wall continued his restoration from an Achilles harm, he went on one thing of a pickup recreation tour, bouncing from Miami—the place he performed with current teammate James Harden—to Los Angeles, the place he joined a run headlined by Durant, himself 18 months faraway from an Achilles tear. And Durant, observers stated, didn’t seem to have missed a beat.
“He didn’t appear like Kevin Durant after an Achilles harm,” stated one witness. “He regarded like Kevin Durant. He was all the means again.”
There may be maybe no more interesting team in the NBA than Brooklyn, and Durant is an enormous cause why. The ex-MVP is in 12 months two of a 4-12 months, $164 million contract, accumulating $37 million final season to rehab the injury he suffered with Golden State in the 2019 Finals. At 32, Durant seems to have regained all of his mobility, to the level the place a few of Nets coach Steve Nash’s early focus has been on discovering distinctive methods to deploy him.
“So far as schemes, offense and protection, coach goes to use me in quite a lot of methods,” Durant stated. “A small ball 5, a 4 generally, bringing the ball up. I’ve simply bought to be prepared for something.”
Prepared for something. That could possibly be a slogan for Brooklyn in ’20-21. On paper, the Nets are arguably the finest crew in the NBA. Durant and Kyrie Irving are strengthened by a glittery assortment of younger stars, from Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie, a pair of guards with All-Star potential, to sharpshooter Joe Harris to rim protector Jarrett Allen. A crew observe could possibly be extra aggressive than a few of Brooklyn’s video games.
“You may have such a gifted group,” Durant stated. “It brings the finest out of all people.”
Championships, in fact, aren’t received on paper, and whereas the Nets might have extra expertise than any crew in the league, in addition they have extra variance. That begins with Nash, the first 12 months head coach. Nash has already navigated his first controversy, when Irving, in a podcast look with Durant, urged the Nets didn’t have a head coach. His subsequent problem can be designing a system that performs to the strengths of Durant and Irving whereas getting a supporting solid conversant in scoring sufficient touches to maintain them blissful.
“I’m not able—nor do I would like to be able—the place I are available in and say ‘that is how we’re doing every part.’ I are available in hat in hand in lots of respects,” Nash said on an ESPN podcast just lately. “How have you ever finished it in the previous? What do you suppose works? I’m huge open to the actuality that I don’t have any head teaching expertise. I do have numerous expertise, however not in that seat. I’ve enhancing and rising and studying to do.”
And what about that on-courtroom dynamic? Let’s assume that Durant and Irving, shut buddies who were eager to team up, are blissful. However what about everybody else? There are similarities between the Nets and the ’18-19 Celtics. That Boston crew entered the season with younger however established stars in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Good who have been pressured to regulate to a returning Irving and Gordon Hayward. It didn’t go so well. Friction divided the locker room and the season led to the second spherical. Irving was out the door quickly after.
Boston’s younger expertise struggled to regulate to secondary roles.
Will Brooklyn’s be totally different?
“There can be a variety of alternatives for myself together with different guys to be aggressive with a lot consideration on Kevin and Ky,” stated LeVert. “I believe all people’s on the identical web page so far as function is anxious. Simply do what I do finest. Be somebody very versatile who can do a variety of issues rather well. Simply relying on who I’m on the market on the courtroom with, whether or not it’s enjoying off the ball or enjoying on the ball. Simply being prepared for each scenario. I believe that’s what I’ve form of been getting ready myself for with this lengthy offseason we’ve had.”
There’s one other line connecting the Nets and Celtics: Commerce chatter. In ’18-19, Boston was consumed in the pursuit of Anthony Davis. Everybody knew the Celtics hoped to pair Davis with Irving. Everybody additionally knew the price—most of Boston’s younger expertise—that went with it. That discuss poisoned the locker room, leaving gamers questioning in the event that they have been a part of the way forward for the crew or simply commerce chips.
The Nets haven’t reached a Davis-degree fervor, but it surely might get there. Brooklyn’s interest in James Harden is well known, and as Harden’s consternation with Houston grows, the Nets will develop into extra related to him. Nash has referred to the Harden discuss as “the elephant” in observe. LeVert was requested about Harden. Durant, too. “I don’t take into consideration James Harden in any respect,” Durant stated. “He doesn’t play on our crew.” Nash has gone out of his means to reward the youthful gamers however a relentless churn of Harden-to-Brooklyn rumors might bleed into the locker room.
“I really like our guys and hopefully all of them really feel actually valued and needed and revered,” Nash stated. “Now we have so many guys that carry a lot to the desk. Once I’m in the health club with them each day I really feel lucky. So hopefully they really feel that, and they don’t really feel that we’re looking the window at greener pastures, as a result of we love what we’ve got right here.”
Certainly. The Nets have the expertise to carry a championship to Brooklyn. They’ve playoff confirmed firepower and depth that’s the envy of the league. They’ve assembled a basketball juggernaut. Now we see the way it comes collectively.