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MEDIA DAY: A new chapter for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving resides in Brooklyn

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets-Media Day Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — It was 4:16am on June 30 when Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan hopped on a three-way FaceTime to discuss their futures in the NBA. The only thing they truly knew, according to the three, is that they wanted to play together. Ultimately, in Brooklyn.

“We were like, ‘Are you ready to do it?’ And everybody was like, ‘Yeah,’” said Durant at Brooklyn’s Media Day. “I could try to think of something deeper, but it really wasn’t.”

And it wasn’t. Brooklyn had all the tools to land the superstars – a “family-first” culture with morals that include high character individuals, a blue-collar work environment and growth on and off the court. Following a playoff appearance, not to mention a top-class arena and practice facility in the biggest market in the world, it only seemed appropriate that the Nets would finally get their chance.

For Durant and Irving – neither have much to prove. They each have a championship ring(s) and many other accolades. They’re in Brooklyn to win but they’re going for something new in their lives and their careers: happiness.

“With KD and DJ, it was 4:16 in the morning, us just talking about our futures and how this opportunity ahead of us is something that we haven’t had in our careers; 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,” said Irving.

“It made us feel like All-Stars. It made us feel like we were supposed to be treated fairly, from the media component, from our teammates, from the first-class service that they give here at concierge and most importantly for me was just the family atmosphere.”

“I’ve been following him since high school. I’ve tried to follow him throughout his career,” said Durant of his relationship with Irving. “It’s very rare that you get to this point and have a decision in front of us where we can control our destinies. We sat down and talked about it and what basketball meant to us as a whole, and I think this is the perfect spot for us to hone our skills and keep going.”

Then, there was the ever-so-jolly DeAndre Jordan who joked about playing for the Knicks for “two months.”

“It wasn’t as crazy as me getting locked in my house [a few years ago],” Jordan said while laughing, a reference how his then Clipper teammates barricaded him in his house to prevent him from talking to Mark Cuban. “[It wasn’t] only the culture, but the guys here who are extremely talented — and they are great guys. We felt like this was the best fit.”

The Nets take pride in the family-first identity they’ve established. When they sign a new player, they immediately send an arrangement of flowers to the family of the player as a welcoming gift. When they draft a young player out of college or from overseas, oftentimes they’ll bring the parents in and reassure them in terms of plans for their future and getting acquainted with the city.

This isn’t something that formed overnight. From the moment Sean Marks took over, the first thing he mentioned was family values. The Nets’ rise has been centered around the cohesive identity they’ve built – and something they’ll have to continue building having lost eight players from last year’s roster.

“They reached out to my family as soon as I committed and it felt like they were very inclusive with everything that they had going on here and it was just a step away from being at home and they made me feel as comfortable as I could as well as reaching out to KD and DJ and all those other guys on the team to make sure that they know what’s going on, that this is for the future. We’re here to build,” said Irving.

Irving is from New Jersey and grew up a Nets fan, a Jason Kidd fan. After high school, he attended Duke University for one year and then played in Cleveland and Boston. It isn’t just the intangible things mentioned. It’s the mindset of literally being back home.

The same can be said for Durant who grew up in Washington D.C. After his time at Texas University, he played in Seattle, then Oklahoma City and then Golden State. For the first time since leaving home for college, Durant is a train ride away from where he grew up.

“Obviously, being from the East Coast, it was something I was really excited about. I’ve played most of my basketball in the Midwest or the West Coast, so I was excited about playing just a few hours from home (in Baltimore). All that stuff played a factor when I thought about it all, but basketball was probably the main thing.”

It goes beyond that, especially for Durant, who left the Golden State Warriors – a team who he had just previously won two titles with. Durant explained how he didn’t need to do a “deep analysis” to know what Brooklyn had. However, there were other factors in the decision-making. Ultimately, the most important being the on-court stuff, like the coaches.

“I was doing a lot of YouTube research on Kenny Atkinson and watching interviews seeing how he talked after the game,” said Durant. “I really liked his approach to his craft as a coach. That drew me in pretty quickly. I didn’t really do too much research on other coaches. I guess you always have to learn that. But once I started getting comfortable how he coaches his craft, it started to make me feel at ease even though I never had a conversation with him. I could just see it through You Tube and clips that he was pretty genuine about the game. Obviously, I talked with Kyrie and then watching the team and knowing Caris and all that stuff kind of combined at once.”

Of course he mentions Caris LeVert, Brooklyn’s rising star and franchise posterboy. LeVert and Durant first met after LeVert underwent surgery on his foot, done by Dr. Martin O’Malley – Brooklyn’s foot and ankle specialist, and the same doctor who did Durant’s past two surgeries. In college, LeVert was nicknamed, “Baby Durant.”

And so, a relationship formed. LeVert flew out to California to train with Durant during the summer of 2016 where the two would hit the gym and hangout. There were several other connections to the Nets’ organization that didn’t appear so evident to the public eye, but those close to him understood that KD had a lot of connections to the Nets.

Brooklyn assistant coach, Adam Harrington, formerly served as both Oklahoma City’s shooting coach and Durant’s personal trainer ... as well a friend and traveling companion. Harrington is the one who helped Durant perfect his Dirk Nowitzki-style, one-legged fadeaway. Durant credited Harrington for getting the two together and helping form a relationship that will be integral in Brooklyn chasing a championship.

“I met him [Caris LeVert] through Adam Harrington,” said Durant. “I worked with Adam in a critical part of my career (with the Thunder) when I was transitioning to a different player. So we built a relationship, and when he got this job, he wanted me to get in the gym with a few of his players, such as Caris and Sean Kilpatrick at the time. We were just hanging out at the crib every day and going to the gym, which was cool. That turned into a relationship. We text, and when we came to (the same) city, we hung out. Everything kind of worked out, and to see his career and see how good a player he’s become, I always figured he would get to this point.”

Durant also spoke about his motivation in leaving a team that had made the Finals three straight years.

“I felt like it was time for a change. I wanted to play for a new team and simply put, I just did it,” Durant said. “I didn’t really think about what I was leaving behind or what we accomplished. I put that up on the shelf already, and when it was time to make a decision on my future, I thought solely about me.”

So, what about the other teams that everybody kept mentioning? The Knicks showed their cards and tanked, flaunting the idea of drafting Zion Williamson while pairing up Durant and Irving. They even put out a season ticket promotion for 2019 with Durant blatantly in the picture. What happened to the Knicks? The Clippers? Even the Warriors?

According to Durant, it wasn’t much of a thought… if at all.

“I thought about it for a couple seconds to see how my life would look in all of those places for a minute. But ultimately, I wanted to be here.”

We saw something in Brooklyn that we’ve never seen before: Superstars sitting in front of a packed out HSS Training Center, with cameras and television stations waiting in anticipation for the NBA’s shiniest new toy in the Nets. We saw seasoned veterans; champions, sitting and talking to reporters with a smile on their face. We saw a team with expectations to compete for a championship.

As one Nets’ coach told NetsDaily: “We got them, Now it’s about getting the job done.” Atkinson talked about how he’d use Durant for however long he’s out.

“His presence when he walks into a room, when he walks into this facility … it’s a different vibe,” coach the coach said. “That presence changes things. It’s a different aura.”

As for Durant, he plans on being humble while he rehabs ... for however long.

“Just be a teammate,” he said. “Come in, work hard in my rehab. Hopefully, that sends a message out. Try to take it a day at a time.”

With the patience and competence Brooklyn has shown since Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson took over, Friday signified a day of celebration for the organization; fruit to the labor they put in.

“We want to end our careers together, we want to do this as a team, and then what better place to do it than Brooklyn? said Irving.