The Brooklyn Nets will have superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the 2020-2021 season once Durant recovers from an Achilles injury.
“Unbelievable!” I shouted. I did a double-take as I looked at the ESPN notification on my phone.
“Breaking News: Kevin Durant plans to sign with Nets.”
Did my favorite NBA team seriously just agree to sign the second-best basketball player in the world behind only the great LeBron James?
Oh yes, they did!
In what was a shock to the basketball world, Durant chose to sign with the Nets over other rumored destinations, including his previous team, the Golden State Warriors, not to mention the Los Angeles Clippers and the Nets’ crosstown rival New York Knicks.
Earlier in the year, it was almost a given that Durant would take his talents to Madison
Square Garden. But I guess there was something special about Brooklyn that caught his eye.
Unlike the Knicks — who have suffered seasons of futility — the Nets have the makings of
a perennial contender in place, as evidenced by the team’s play-off appearance last season.
G. M. Sean Marks has done an outstanding job rebound- ing from the notorious Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade with the Boston Celtics several years ago that stripped the Nets of three future first-round draft picks.
In addition to bringing in Durant, the Nets signed top point guard Kyrie Irving — a product of St. Patrick H.S. Elizabeth, N.J. — and All-Star center DeAndre Jordan. These stars will join a core group that has had success, featuring Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, Caris Le-Vert and Spencer Dinwiddie.
Before I continue sharing my excitement, let me put the brakes on all of this.
In case you haven’t heard, Durant will miss the entire 2019-2020 season dealing with the after-effects of a ruptured Achilles. As a member of the Warriors last season, Durant at first missed a number of playoff games due to a calf injury.
In Game 5 of the NBA Finals, triumphantly returned to the floor, only to suffer the Achilles injury early on. The Toronto Raptors went on to capture their first-ever NBA title, beating the Warriors in six games.
The Best Is Yet to Come
So for all you fellow Nets fans out there, let’s all remember that while Durant is on his way back, it will be at least a full year before we see him don the black-and-white uniform.
It’s crazy to think that as part of the four-year contract in excess of $164 million Durant
signed, he will get paid almost $40 million next season as he continues his recovery. Still,
though, Marks and the Nets brass felt the risk was worth taking to have a healthy Durant for three years still in his prime.
Sure, an Achilles rupture is a devastating injury. In fact, I know from experience — not fun at all. However, unlike me, Durant is a world-class athlete surrounded by expert trainers who will get him in tip-top shape to play high-level ball.
Until that time comes, we Nets fans will be patiently awaiting his debut at Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn. For now, Irving must emerge as the leader of this team. A six- time NBA All-Star and 2016 NBA champion with the Cleve- land Cavaliers, Irving has seen it all in the league and now must have his experience translate to this young, talented group.
The goal for the upcoming season is for the Nets to continue laying the foundation. If they could again reach the play-offs and maybe win a series this time, that would be a great way to welcome Durant to the fold the following year.
The Eastern Conference is no joke. In addition to the defending champion Raptors, the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers are all looking to build upon strong seasons.
Still, it will finally be great to see some consistently competitive basketball in New York City next season. After all, basketball is known as the “City Game” around these parts.
Up until last season, the Nets hadn’t reached the play-offs since the 2014-2015 sea-
son when they lost in the first round to the Atlanta Hawks. Meanwhile, the hapless Knicks have failed to reach postseason play since the 2012-2013 season.
It’s not a stretch to say that this area is starved for a basketball renaissance. All along, it seemed that Durant and Irving would team up in the Mecca of basketball at the Garden to . attempt to resurrect the Knickerbockers franchise.
If you win in New York City, your career is instantly vaulted to the next level. Just ask Tom Seaver, Keith Hernandez, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Joe Namath, Eli Manning, Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Willis Reed or Walt “Clyde” Frazier.
Sorry, Knicks fans. Instead of trying to bring a championship back to Manhattan, these superstars are now Brooklyn boys!
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.