The Brooklyn Nets are all in. The fans have remained patient, endured a bridge year or two along the way. Now, however, in 2020-21 it’s championship or bust. The waiting is over. No excuses, just win.
But, of course, it’s never that simple. Did you think it was going to be simple?
Health concerns aside, naturally, but the Nets face the dreaded “c” word (chemistry) and questions about fit and how well they’ll mesh together until, well, whenever the 2020-21 season starts.
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert, the team’s “big three” have played a combined zero minutes together. Zero.
In fact, Durant told J.J. Redick, as a guest on his podcast, that he too was “excited” to see how it will all play out, noting that he’s only ever played with Kyrie Irving during the Olympics and in All-Star games.
Throw in, of course, a brand new head coach in Steve Nash who is, yeah, a brand new head coach and it’s certain we’ll hear the “team chemistry” narrative hard and heavy over the next handful of months.
Will it work? If so, how long will it take to work? Do I need to wait another year?
Great questions. To which, my answers are: shrug emoji.
What we we know, though, is that Durant and Irving, along with DeAndre Jordan, had talked about this ad nauseam and wouldn’t have signed up to play together if they truly believed it wouldn’t work.
This wasn’t a GM’s thought-experiment. This was two players (three, with DJ) determining whether or not they believe they can play together.
Look back to Media Day, earlier this season.
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.
“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.
And of playing alongside Irving and the relationship they have, Durant said:
“I’ve been following him since high school. I’ve tried to follow him throughout his career...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.”
This feels different. Different from 2013 when the Nets went all in creating a collage-style NBA team, where you had Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce who absolutely loathed the kind of player that Deron Williams was, and a head coach in Jason Kidd who only ever knew his players as peers and in year one was already thinking about how to gain more power within the organization.
This isn’t that. That was the product of a GM, slash owner, putting a fantasy basketball team together.
I won’t pretend like I “knew” it wouldn’t work at the time, but I also know enough about that team and this team to know where the reality starts and the anxiety ends.
With Irving and Durant it’s different. They had been talking about playing together for two years, Durant told Showtime’s “All the Smoke.”
“I’ve been having conversations with Kyrie for the last two years,” he noted. “Not even about playing together, as just brothers. We didn’t plan on playing together. We played against each other in my second year with the Warriors and we had a mutual friend and we just bonded together and we bonded on life in general ... and basketball in general, that just formed over time.
“He didn’t like where his situation was at and me either in Golden State. And just to see how this will work. Let’s try it out. And DJ wanted to play with us and be that center for us that can hold it down and play for something really, play for a team that’s going somewhere and not just bouncing around the league. We knew he’d be a vital piece for us going forward, not just as a star, but being a good teammate. So it just worked out.”
Two years. Durant wanted to play with Irving, having complete confidence that they would fit perfectly together; as Durant referred to Irving as “an artist” on the basketball court.
As for Nash, he’s seemingly the perfect fit for both Durant and Irving.
James Herbert of CBS Sports writes of the fit:
“I think it’s going to be really good for Kyrie,” [Raja] Bell said. “And I don’t mean to make it sound one-sided, ‘cause obviously Kyrie’s going to play really well and that’s going to help Steve, but I think Kyrie is at a point in his career where it’s time for him to take that next step into real leadership and getting real results on the team that he’s leading. Even though he’ll be co-leading with Kevin Durant.”
Irving will like Nash, Bell said, because everybody does. And Nash will “work at the relationship to where Kyrie trusts him.” Trust is a big deal to Irving, and Nash should earn it the same way he earned trust as a player: By being himself and putting the team first.
Nash already has the trust of Kevin Durant, having worked with him as a player-development consultant during Durant’s final season in Golden State.
This is the head coach that Durant wanted, and the coach that Irving likely had to sign off on.
And that’s where we begin and, hopefully, end the conversation about chemistry. The three main cogs in this wheel all want to be playing/coaching alongside each other. That’s a great start!
You don’t always get that in the NBA.
Will it work? Again, I have no idea. But are we off to a good start? A start that stinks nothing like 2013? Most definitely.
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