There might not be a more interesting team in the NBA than Brooklyn, and Durant is a big reason. The former MVP is in the second year of a four-year, $ 164 million contract, raising $ 37 million last season to rehabilitate the injury he suffered with Golden State in the 2019 Finals. At 32 Years ago, Durant seems to have regained all his mobility, to the point that some of the Nets’ coaches, Steve Nash, initially focused on finding unique ways to deploy him.
“When it comes to stratagems, offense and defense, the coach is going to use me in a variety of ways,” Durant said. “A small ball five, sometimes a four, bringing the ball up. I just have to be ready for anything.
Ready for everything. This could be a slogan for Brooklyn in 20-21. On paper, the Nets are arguably the best team in the NBA. Durant and Kyrie Irving are bolstered by a scintillating collection of young stars, from Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie, a pair of All-Star potential guards, to sniper Joe Harris to rim protector Jarrett Allen. Team training might be more competitive than some of the Brooklyn games.“You have such a talented group,” Durant said. “It brings out the best in everyone.”
The Championships, of course, aren’t won on paper, and while the Nets may have more talent than any team in the league, they also have more variance. It starts with Nash, the first-year head coach. Nash has already gone through his first controversy, when Irving, during a podcast appearance with Durant, suggested that the Nets did not have a head coach. His next challenge will be to design a system that harnesses the strengths of Durant and Irving while allowing a supporting cast to familiarize themselves with enough keys to keep them happy.
“I’m not in a position – and I don’t want to be in a position either – where I step in and say ‘this is how we do everything’. Hat in hand in many ways, ”Nash said recently on an ESPN podcast. “How have you done this in the past? What do you think is working? I am quite open to the reality that I have no experience as a head coach. I have a lot of experience, but not in this position. I improve, I grow and I learn to do.
And what about this dynamic on the court? Suppose Durant and Irving, close friends who are eager to team up, are happy. But what about all the others? There are similarities between the Nets and the ’18-19 Celtics. This Boston team entered the season with established young stars like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, who were forced to adjust to a returning Irving and Gordon Hayward. It didn’t go very well. Friction divided the dressing rooms and the season ended in the second round. Irving left shortly after.Young Boston talent struggled to adjust to supporting roles.
Will Brooklyn be any different?
“There will be a lot of opportunities for myself with other guys to be aggressive with so much attention on Kevin and Ky,” said LeVert. “I think everyone is on the same page when it comes to the role. Do what I do best. Be a very versatile person who can do a lot of things very well. It all depends on who I’m on the pitch with, whether it’s playing with the ball or playing with the ball. Just be prepared for every situation. I think that’s what I’ve prepared for with this long offseason we’ve had.
There’s another line connecting the Nets and the Celtics: commercial chatter. In ’18-19, Boston was consumed in the pursuit of Anthony Davis. Everyone knew the Celtics were hoping to pair Davis with Irving. Everyone also knew the cost – most of Boston’s young talent – that came with it. This conversation plagued the locker room, leaving players wondering if they were part of the team’s future or if they were just trading chips.
The Nets haven’t reached Davis-level fervor, but they could get there. Brooklyn’s interest in James Harden is well known, and as Harden’s dismay with Houston grows, the Nets will become more and more connected with him. Nash called Harden’s speech “the elephant” in practice. LeVert was asked about Harden. During too. “I don’t think of James Harden at all,” Durant said. “He does not play in our team.” Nash went out of his way to congratulate the young players, but a constant turnover of Harden-to-Brooklyn rumors could bleed in the locker room.“I love our guys and hope they all feel really appreciated, wanted and respected,” Nash said. “We have so many guys who bring so much to the table. When I am at the gym with them everyday I feel lucky. So I hope they feel it, and they don’t think we are looking out the window to greener pastures because we love what we have here.
Indeed. The Nets have the talent to bring a championship to Brooklyn. They have proven playoff firepower and depth that are the envy of the league. They gathered a heavyweight basketball. Now we see how it fits together.