30 Teams in 30 Days | 2022

30 Teams in 30 Days: Nets look to move forward after bumpy offseason

Ben Simmons will finally make his long-awaited debut with the Nets alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in 2022-23.

Brooklyn is hopeful its superstar duo will play together more in 2022-23 than it did in 2021-22.

Brooklyn Nets

2021-22 record: 44-38

Key additions: Royce O’Neale (trade), TJ Warren, Markieff Morris (free agency)

Key subtractions: Bruce Brown, Andre Drummond, Goran Dragic (free agency)

Last season: It was a season of self-destruction by a team built to travel deep into the summer, as the Nets dealt with a variety of turmoil that torpedoed them. And that’s just with their three stars. Kevin Durant played only 55 games before suffering a knee injury, Kyrie Irving refused to get vaccinated and was limited to 29 games, and James Harden threw up his hands and surrendered by demanding a mid-season trade (which sent him to Philly). As if that weren’t enough, the player they received in the Harden trade, Ben Simmons, declared himself unfit for duty because of undisclosed back issues. Suddenly, all of those lofty plans and championship aspirations went poof. By putting Durant with Kyrie and Harden, the Nets wanted to build an experience rarely seen before. Well, in a sense, that actually happened.

Summer summary: The Nets went into the offseason figuring the worst was over, that nothing could top the craziness they went through in 2021-22, that barring something totally weird — like KD demanding a trade — the team had turned a corner.

Well, then. Of course, Murphy’s Law would strike again, just when it appeared the coast was clear.

The summer months generated more unwanted buzz than the regular season they just completed after Durant’s demands became public on the eve of the start of free agency. The NBA world came to a stop, and proposed trades, both imagined and real, flew everywhere.

Who wouldn’t want a top-five player, someone capable of changing the direction of a franchise? Yes, even though Durant is 34, and dealt with injuries, and is arguably the most sensitive superstar in the league, he’s still Kevin Durant. And anyone with title aspirations would want him, flaws and all.

It put GM Sean Marks in a bind, obviously, because this basketball grenade fell into his lap somewhat unexpectedly and suddenly. As the summer progressed, and sanity prevailed, KD and the Nets agreed to keep the relationship going.

Durant didn’t get traded perhaps because the price was too steep, and therefore a trade didn’t make sense. Why would Durant be thrilled to join a contender that gutted its team to get him? By keeping Durant, the Nets are quite good. Maybe among the best in basketball.

That’s because Marks didn’t allow the KD drama to occupy all of his time. He went to work, signing O’Neale from the rebuilding Jazz and ditto for Warren from the rebuilding Pacers.

O’Neale is a solid role player who brings stretchy shooting range and works hard defensively. Meanwhile, Warren was a No. 1 option on the Pacers just a few years ago, when he went ballistic in the bubble and delivered some epic scoring games. But a pair of stress fractures in his left foot held Warren to only four games since the 2019-20 season.

The two players are ideal additions for a team with built-in superstars — assuming KD is still all-in — and only need to make sure the supporting cast is well … supportive.

With O’Neale, Warren, the newly extended Patty Mills and Nic Claxton, Seth Curry, a healed Joe Harris and Cam Thomas, Brooklyn has the pieces to compliment Irving, Durant and Simmons. That’s a solid squad.

Oh, about Irving: He went into the offseason with a player option on his contract for 2022-23, and of course, he opted in. He really didn’t have much choice; the Nets (for good reasons) refused to offer a multi-year extension, and Irving would find it hard to make the $36 million (his salary for next season) elsewhere. There’s too much drama swirling around him for anyone to give him that much power.

And that’s really what has bedeviled the Nets since KD agreed to leave the Warriors three years ago and pair up with Irving in Brooklyn. The Nets gave those stars plenty of sway (for example, agreeing to sign KD’s buddy, DeAndre Jordan, who had nothing left in the tank) and it ended up biting them.

They also appeased Harden after spending valuable assets to get him, only to grant him one more favor by trading him. Was it really worth all the trouble? That’s what the Nets must ask themselves regarding all three superstars, who could never stay on the court together and therefore, never took the franchise to the promised land.

What’s especially disturbing about Durant is Brooklyn gave him a four-year extension just last summer for almost $200 million, and that extension doesn’t even kick in until October … and he still demanded out.

As the summer begins to fade, the Nets breathed easy after all. They went into the offseason in the uncomfortable position of shedding their biggest remaining stars. Now it appears they’ll keep both.

Up next: Milwaukee Bucks | Previously: Detroit Pistons

30 teams in 30 days: Complete schedule

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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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