Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan Take the Stage at Brooklyn Nets Media Day
All-NBA acquisitions tell the tale of their decision to come to Brooklyn
After months of speculation, relentless scrutiny and endless pontificating pundits, the decision that would shake the NBA this summer — well, one of them at least — came about as casual as could be.
In the middle of the night, the first hours of a soon-to-be Sunday morning — Kyrie Irving called it 4:16, but it was earlier for DeAndre Jordan out on the West Coast — the agreement that would spill out later that afternoon was reached.
“I mean, we were like, ‘Are you ready to do it?’ And everybody was like, ‘Yeah,’” said Kevin Durant. “I could try to think of something deeper, but it really wasn’t.”
That’s how Durant, Irving and Jordan agreed to become Brooklyn Nets, and Friday morning they took center stage at HSS Training Center for Media Day, their first time speaking publicly about the decision in a formal organizational setting.
If the final agreement seemed anti-climactic, the conversation that led to it covered a little more ground.
“Just talking about our futures and how this opportunity ahead of us is something that we haven’t had in our careers,” said Irving, “the ability to make a choice, sitting down, actually talking in detail about the future and the investment we had in each other and the investment we wanted to have in Brooklyn, so it made sense all the way around, and then having the incredible people they have in the organization made it that much easier. It made us feel like All-Stars.”
Teammates on the 2016 United States Olympic team that won the gold medal in Brazil, it’s the first time any of them will play together in the NBA.
“When you have an opportunity to join some guys that you consider brothers and family, and make it on your terms and play and have an opportunity to win a championship, that is also huge,” said Jordan. “Obviously I’ve known Kevin since high school. Ky, our relationship developed stronger when we played (in the Olympics) in ’16 and won it together. We’ve talked about this for a long time. And I feel like the universe kind of put it out there for us to take advantage of it. And we were all free agents at the same time. So it kind of just worked itself out and we’re really excited about this opportunity.”
The acquisitions — Durant officially came in a sign-and-trade from Golden State — were the latest milestone in a whirlwind year for the organization. This time last year, the Nets were coming off their third straight 20-win season. There had been progress since GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson took over in 2016, bright spots in the draft and development, but still a long way to go.
Then a rising and resilient squad played through key injuries to add 14 wins to their total and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Their playing style and culture drew increasing attention throughout the league.
Atkinson made an impression on Durant from afar, courtesy of YouTube. The nine-time All-Star checked out the Nets coach’s postgame media sessions and liked the way he talked about the game. There was also the young core that Marks and Atkinson had built and nurtured with their staffs.
“I’m excited about the culture that they’ve built,” said Jordan. “What Sean and Kenny and the rest of the organization has done. How they built off of grit and drafting these guys and developing everyone. I wanted to be a part of something like that. Be a part of the culture. Especially when you add two great players like Kevin and Ky who I had the opportunity to play with and win a gold medal with, that’s something that I wanted to be a part of.”
“We know basketball pretty well, and it’s really easy to see what these guys brought to the table,” said Durant. “It’s not like I had to do any deep analysis of any player here. Just watching games and playing against them and seeing the continuity throughout the last couple of years, it was pretty easy to figure out what kind of team and what kind of organization this place is.”
There were relationships that helped add to the interest. Nets assistant coach Adam Harrington, previously on the staff in Oklahoma City during Durant’s time with the Thunder, had connected Durant and Caris LeVert a few summers ago. Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie got acquainted during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles in 2018, with a friendship that grew from there.
For Irving, coming to Brooklyn was a chance for a homecoming at precisely the time he was looking inward and taking stock of what he valued, less than a year after his grandfather’s passing. He grew up in West Orange, New Jersey, starring at powerhouse St. Patrick’s in Elizabeth and rooting for the Nets in the Meadowlands before his journey took him to Duke and the top of the 2011 NBA Draft as the No. 1 overall pick.
Those homegrown connections brought him full circle to the Nets.
“We’re just here to observe one another, care for one another and be here to enjoy playing basketball,” said Irving. “But first and foremost is our family. I think sometimes that can get confused in this league about who we are as human beings. I’m always going to be an advocate for that, and they are advocates that we’re humans first and then we’re basketball players.”
The basketball resumes, of course, are stellar. Irving is an NBA champion, a six-time All-Star, and a two-time All-NBA selection, including last season. He’ll take charge of the Brooklyn offense at point guard. Jordan is a three-time All-NBA pick and the league’s all-time leader in career field goal percentage, and will team with Jarrett Allen in the center rotation.
There will be a wait for the Durant, the 2014 NBA MVP, two-time NBA champion and NBA Finals MVP, and nine-time All-Star with the 27.0 points per game career scoring average. He is rehabilitating after an Achilles’ tear, and Marks has said the team does not expect him to play this season.
That does not mean there won’t be an impact. Atkinson values his presence, experience and knowledge. Durant’s plans don’t include anything different than the fact he won’t be in the lineup at game time.
“Be a teammate. I mean, you’re not going to do anything extra,” said Durant. “I’ll do what I usually do – come in and work hard on my rehab and, hopefully, that sends a great message. If anybody has a question on anything in practice or in the games, I know the game pretty well, so I can answer those questions as honestly as I can. I’ll try to approach it like an everyday man, try to take it a game at a time. When I’m not playing, I’m just going to be myself.”
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