Headline

Brooklyn Nets Season Preview: Kevin Durant Takes the Stage

New Nets era tips off with debut of Durant in Brooklyn

So, how does Kevin Durant look? Well, he looks like Kevin Durant, was the steady refrain from Brooklyn Nets teammates through the opening days of training camp, some of whom had been working out with him for the past few months.

Until a week ago, it was an exclusive window behind the scenes that belonged only to Nets teammates and coaches, or those who had been part of Durant’s offseason workouts. But after two preseason games, the rest of the world has had a look, and the reviews are, well, he looks like Kevin Durant.

On Sunday afternoon, with the Nets 48 hours away from their season opener, and from Durant’s regular season debut as a Net, head coach Steve Nash was asked how close Durant is to 100 percent, 18 months after injuring his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals.

“This is tough for me to actually put a number on,” said Nash. “It's really hard. But he's in the 90s, for sure. I mean, whether it's 90 or 99 I don't know. But I keep trying to tell him that he's got to give himself 15, 20 games before he starts judging himself. Sometimes they say the amount of time you have off takes you that much time once you’re back to kind of feel like yourself.

“He’s done absolutely everything we could ask. But I think there's no way to finalize what he is, who he is post-injury without playing NBA games. You can't really recreate it. You can't simulate it. And you can't replace it. So he's going to go through this process, play some games and I think before long; if everything we're fortunate enough with his health and all the things that he's put into this, and he's going to be I think 100% Kevin Durant, no question.”

After Friday night’s preseason game in Boston, Durant expressed a similar view, that there is time still to go before he is all the way back to the form that generated two NBA championships and accompanying NBA Finals MVP Awards, the 2013-14 NBA MVP Award, and All-NBA selections in each of his last nine full seasons.

“I feel like that’s gonna come over time,” said Durant. “I was out for 18 months not playing an NBA game, not playing against that physicality, the speed of the game. So it’s gonna take me some time to get my feet up under me, get my legs right. But having a team like we have, those guys support me every time I step on the floor, try to put me in great positions to be successful, and we’re just playing off of each other. So if we continue to do that, this will be a smooth ride for me as I get back into the swing of things.”

Physically, Durant said he feels “solid,” but still short of his peak. There’s room to get better.

In the preseason opener against Washington, Durant scored 15 points before halftime, combining with Kyrie Irving to charge up Brooklyn’s 68-point first half, and then played into the third quarter before closing out his return to NBA action with a 24-minute stint.

Against Boston on Friday night, Durant had 25 points in 27 minutes, shooting 9-for-16, and added six rebounds and three blocks as the Nets put up another 60-point first half and eventually led by as many as 36 points in their 113-89 win.

The next step comes Tuesday night against the Warriors, with whom Durant won those NBA championships while leading Golden State to the NBA Finals in all three of his seasons with the team.

“I have no choice but to be ready, but I feel alright,” said Durant. “I feel like I'll get better with more and more reps especially with regular season intensity and to start the season every team is going to be playing extremely hard so I want to see how I can get through that first stretch and throughout the middle of the season and play towards the back. So I'm just looking at it in small intervals like that and taking it really a possession at a time trying to keep going individually. Our team has done a great job every day and coach has done a great job every day of hammering home the principles to us, but me individually I continue to just keep getting better each day.”

Durant’s debut on Tuesday will tip off a new Nets era, one that has been on hold since he, Irving, and DeAndre Jordan decided to come to Brooklyn in the summer of 2019. Durant was just weeks removed from his injury when he committed to Brooklyn, and the expectation from the start was that he wouldn’t take the court until the 2020-21 season. Then the coronavirus pandemic shredded the NBA calendar, with the new season starting two months later than usual.

Now, the wait is over. One of the great scorers in NBA history is a Brooklyn Net, and much of what happens next for the franchise will depend on Durant being the player he has been. While this is Nash’s first season as Brooklyn’s head coach, he’s had an up-close view of what has driven Durant to such heights while working with the Warriors as a player development consultant during Durant’s three seasons there.

“He just loves basketball, loves, loves, loves the game,” said Nash. “Great passion for refining his skillset and craft every day, competing and winning. That passion for it allows him to make a sacrifice. He’s here every day working at his game working his craft, developing his skills, getting his rhythm. You know he's just a joy to coach and a watch when someone that gifted; part of its gifted, but part of it’s also he has honed his craft through the discipline to do it day after day, hour after hour. He never takes a day off, or never skips an opportunity to get better. And so that's the hallmark of why he's one of the all-time greats.”

Catch the Brooklyn Nets this Season

NEXT UP:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter