In an interview with Kevin Durant, ESPN’s Rachel Nichols broached a lot of subjects, then at the end, mentioned the “D” word ... no, not the Nets’ defense but dynasty. Is this group of players, this organization capable of sustaining success at a high level beyond this season?
Durant, always conscious that the Nets have yet to win anything, wouldn’t say, yes, but he definitely didn’t say no either. What he did say —and what others in an out of the organization are saying — is that he likes what he sees from the organization’s culture (shouting out Joe Tsai in the process) and offered a summary of the things he likes in that culture and what it can bring.
Here’s the exchange...
Q. “You, James Harden, Kyrie Irving are all in the prime of your careers. You’re here in Brooklyn with a super strong offense. You’ve got a Hall of Fame coach on the sidelines. Do you think this could be a dynasty you’re building here?”
A. “I love what we’re building and I think that the culture and the spirit around the game is something that we’ve tried to cultivate from Day 1. And everybody brings their part to it, you know. And everybody is valuable. We love [everybody] from the starting guys to the last guy on the bench. We all value each other’s input.
“So if we create that, that’s good enough. Like I said that’s just the foundation and what ever grows from that, we’ll be happy with. But I think we're setting up that foundation as a whole organization, from Joe Tsai all the way on down. We’re just trying to create something pretty cool for people to watch and for us players to come play in.”
The last line of course is key to any dynasty in any sport, getting the best of the best to want to play for an organization, play withn their culture. KD, Kyrie and DeAndre Jordan said they signed free agent contracts in July 2019 for a variety of reasons, but mostly because the culture created in Brooklyn. It seemed the foundation stone of success. Then, James Harden demanded a trade to the Nets, an almost unimaginable thought a few years back, and finally, the two best players bought out of their contracts, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, signed minimum deals in hope of contributing to a title run.
In the Nets Zoom call with reporters on Saturday morning, Joe Harris touched on the same theme in response to a question from Newsday’s Greg Logan on the team’s ability to attract so many stars and superstars, how the Brooklyn culture “intrigues” players. Harris, who joined the Nets at their nadir, in the summer of 2016, has a longer-time perspective, of course.
“I think the combination of a few things made it a desirable location in the free agent market. I think the year before (2018-19), one of the consistent themes I heard from all my buddies that I played with and played against was that we looked like we had some of the best culture where guys enjoyed playing with one another, there was a lot of enthusiasm on the bench. There was such a good vibe, an energy when people would come into the Barclays and people take notice of that. Obviously Kai and Kevin took notice of that.
“Then, you come into a place like Brooklyn with an opportunity to build something special where it’s never been done before. So all those things factor into one another and made it a very desirable place. We added Kevin and Kai to the mix and the culture stayed the same but obviously a lot more talent and I think more talent intrigues other talent come as well.”
Like we said, the Nets know they haven’t won anything, other than of course respect around the league ... not to mention envy and maybe a bit of jealousy. But they are not backing down from the challenge either individually or as a team. As Durant said in another part of the (very most excellent) interview with Nichols.
“I know what I bring to the sport. I know what I bring to the culture of the sport and I feel that I’m accepted by all the ‘real ones’ in the game. You know what I’m saying? That’s all that matters, that I get that respect and that’s what I’ve been playing for and I want to continue to play for that.”
And he was a bit philosophical and frank about what drives him. It’s not just the championships, but a desire to be the best he can be. He didn’t dismiss the run for a ring, just that after his two rings with Golden State, he had a bit of an epiphany, a flash of discovery.
“I wasn’t expecting to be a happy human being from a title. I was just expecting like, you know, the ending of a movie — once you worked so hard and everybody tells you like, ‘Yo, this is what you need to be working for, is this gold ball and these rings.’ And I’m just like, ‘All right, cool, let me lock in on that.’ And I locked in on wanting to achieve that, but I also realized it’s a lot of stuff that factors in it that’s out of my control.
“And once I won a championship [with Golden State], I realized that, like, my view on this game is really about development. Like, how good can I be? It’s not about, you know, let’s go get this championship. I appreciate that stuff and I want to win to experience that stuff, but it’s not the end-all, be-all of why I play the game.”
Of course, Durant has pushed the edge of the envelope in his rehabs and was a big part of recruiting not just Harden during last summer’s workouts in L.A., but also being aggressive in texting Griffin and Aldridge when they were shut down.
You want culture? There you have it.