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Kevin Durant talks Jacque Vaughn, Luka, LeBron, and more on The ETCs

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Washington Wizards Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s always great to get back home when you’ve been on a road trip. Even if it’s only for a day, it’s good to unwind, catch up some friends, and see your home before you’re back on the run. It feels good and having that chance to rest and relax

Season three of The ETCs is in full swing, and with the Brooklyn Nets currently on the West Coast for a four game road trip, Kevin Durant took some time out of his schedule last week to chop it up with Eddie Gonzalez of Boardroom and FanDuel TV before hitting the road.

The show opened up with some talk about the new Drake and 21 Savage album, Her Loss (great album, would recommend.) We also got a little mogul talk as they talk about the list of candidates rumored to be buying the NFL’s Washington Commanders, including Jay-Z. From there, they got to the latest happenings surrounding the Brooklyn Nets.

Jacque Vaughn was recently named head coach after taking over for Steve Nash. It’s been a long journey back to the head coaching job for Vaughn as he had been working as an assistant with the Nets since 2016 following a stint as Orlando Magic head coach from 2012-2015. Durant spoke on Vaughn’s promotion and said:

“I think he was due for an opportunity here. Not just any head coaching job, but I felt like here... If the spot was gonna come open, I felt like he was the guy because he paid his dues, knows the players, seen the guys come in and out, tight relationship with the front office. I think he can connect with the players a little easier because it’s hard to transition a new guy midway through the season, early in the season like this, so I felt like just for the continuity purposes it was good for us to stick with Jacque. And I’m happy for him, he deserves this opportunity. Great basketball mind, great team builder, great leader of men. So I’m looking forward to building.”

Vaughn’s promotion also turned out to be a historic one. According to Marc Spears of ESPN, Vaughn’s hire means that there are now a record high 16 Black head coaches in the NBA. Vaughn has been well respected by his peers and players for a long time, and his return to the big chair is long overdue.

In 2020, I wrote about the Nash hire in the context of the number of minority coaches in the NBA. Then, like now, the NBA is better than most of the male sports leagues when it comes to diversity in the coach x executive ranks. And at the same time, the league can still do better to ensure they open the game to make it as accessible as possible so good talent don’t fall through the cracks. There are so many wonderful basketball minds out there, and it’s up to NBA ownership to ensure they are given the opportunities they deserve.

On the court, the team has gone 4-3 with JV at the helm and look like a team on the rise. The defense has picked up a great deal and as the team starts to take care of things and get healthy, they have the potential to make a bigger push up the standings. What’s made this run even more impressive is the Nets have been on the road for much of this recent stretch with little practice time amongst the players. Good process begets good results and Durant expanded on that, saying:

“That’s the name of it, just playing good ball. The results gonna take care of itself if you play solid ball from the first possession to the last. That just makes the game fun for everybody. Coaches, fans, referees when you’re playing honest ball. Everybody’s having a good time when both teams play honest, hard ball. We keep that up, we’ll be in solid shape.”

And to help paint a clearer picture of Vaughn’s journey from player to coach, behold...

San Antonio Spurs v Seattle SuperSonics Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

We old as hell, man.

Meet the moment

Brooklyn Nets v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images

When you’re mentioned in the same category as Wilt Chamberlain, chances are you’re doing something right. Luka Doncic has been a battering ram to opposing defenders as his 34 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists a night have the Dallas Mavericks hoping they can break through the West and reached the Finals. The Nets faced Luka twice and played two tight games against the Mavs, although both ended up in losses for BK.

In the second matchup, Durant got some turns guarding Doncic late and did pretty well when he got the assignment. KD spoke about the challenge of playing Doncic and said:

Doncic’s level of play is incredibly hard to pull off, and if he’s able to make it through a full season like this, he’ll join some special company. SJ of Mavs Moneyball and the Hoopstresses wrote about Luka’s historic start to the year and said:

Luka Doncic is on pace for having one of the highest single season usage rates of all time. He sits at 3rd place just behind Russell Westbrook’s 2016-2017 season and James Harden’s 2018-2019 season. The top 10 features 2 MVP seasons in Westbrook’s aforementioned 2016-2017 season and Giannis’ 2019-2020 season. What is glaringly absent from the top 10 is a season where a player’s team won a championship. The highest single season usage rate where that player went on to win a championship in that season was Michael Jordan during the 1992-1993 season at 34.71%, which ranks 43rd all time.

Woo buddy. Doncic is off to an incredible start to his NBA career, and when it’s all set and done, his name figures to be up there with the legends of this game.

On top the mountain

2018 NBA Finals - Game Two Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been four years since we’ve seen KD and LeBron James share a basketball court, and we’re going to have to wait a little bit longer to see them face off again. James did not play on Sunday as he’s currently ailed by an injured groin. It’s a bummer for fans to not see James, but for the folks who have the unenviable task of guarding him, not seeing James makes life a little bit easier. When James and Durant do square off again, it’ll be a main event matchup and one Durant and the rest of the world will be happy to watch:

When I think about KD and Bron, I always go back to the postgame interview Durant had with ESPN’s Doris Burke following the end of the 2017 Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. DB asked him then what it’s like as a competitor to go back and forth with James, and he told her:

James and Durant have been two of the most defining players in this era of NBA basketball. They’ve gone shot for shot on many an occasion. Every Finals between 2011-2020 had at least one of them in it. They were one and two in scoring throughout the 2010s. They’ve been two of the leaders in the various evolutions of the game. Their free agency decisions shaped the course of NBA history on multiple occasions and will reverberate even after they’re long retired. Off the court, they both have well regarded multimedia companies that have produced excellent work that’s been well received by the masses. They’re a sure bet to make special plays every time they’re on the court, and we’re lucky to have watched them grow into the legends that inspire the current and next generation of ball players.

Durant and James are arguably the two greatest small forwards to ever play the game of basketball, and KD was recently asked to list his Mount Rushmore of small forwards (along with some fun video game talk) by media personality, Chris Henderson:

The game has been blessed to have players like James, Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Larry Bird, etc. at the small forward position. Here’s hoping they’re out there healthy and thriving for as long as possible.

Back on campus

Syndication: The Register Guard Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

KD's 35V teammate has been handling business of her own as well. Since the end of the WNBA season, Sabrina Ionescu won her first gold medal in international competition during the FIBA World Cup, is the face of and debuted her own Player Editions of the Nike GT Cut series, had a fun appearance on ESPN’s College Gameday in Oregon, etc. And now, she’s heading back to the Pacific Northwest.

On Friday, it was announced Ionescu will work on a part time basis as the Director of Athletic Culture at Oregon during the W’s offseason. It’s a welcome home for one of college basketball’s greatest star and a great opportunity for Ionescu to give back to her school. In a statement, Sab said:

“As a kid growing up in the game, my family helped me develop my passion for basketball and all the values it rewards. When I arrived at Oregon, I joined a new family that embraced those same values and helped me grow even more as a player and as a person. Part of my heart remains in Eugene, and I look forward to cultivating the same family atmosphere for future Ducks in the Oregon women’s basketball program.”

This new job is just one more win in a series of them in 2022 for Ionescu. She helped get the New York Liberty back to the playoffs and has everyone optimistic about the future. She had her first All Star appearance and was recognized as one of the very best players in the game. For as great as she already is, she has room to get even better from here.

The WNBA has continued to make gains and opportunities like this will help connect fans to the players and grow the game even more. If we increase access, provide support, and allow the game to grow, everyone wins.