Kevin Durant spoke Monday morning about all things Nets, including Kyrie Irving’s vaccine status to Ben Simmons’ back, but in the end, KD looked forward and said he likes what he sees in Brooklyn.
“To be honest, I signed here for five years to play. You know what I’m saying? Looking at, obviously this year’s important, but no matter what happens this year, I still want to do it again. And again. I want to continue to play, have this group together as long as we can.”
Does that mean he’s lowering expectations for the current season? He didn’t say so directly focusing instead on the longer term.
“So short term, we can focus on [this year’s chances] for sure, but we’re also looking at the big picture of things, too. Seeing how we can build something sustainable for more than just a year or two or three. I know I’m getting old, but I feel like I’m mentally and physically in a solid space to contribute to an organization that’s ready to grow and reach new heights.
“I’m not guaranteeing that we got a championship. But I just like what we’re building,” the 33-year-old said. “And I’m not going to say this is the only year we’ve got an opportunity to fight and work towards something. I don’t think next year we’ve got to start all the way over and try to figure out what’s the next iteration of the Nets.
“I feel like we can just build on what we have and see what happens. We got guys that are committed and want to be here.”
Durant is the oldest player in the Nets core. Irving is 29 (until Wednesday). Simmons is 25. Joe Harris is 30, Seth Curry is 31, and the Nets two rookies, Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe, are both 20. All under contract through at least next year as long as Irving doesn’t exercise his $36.9 million player option. Patty Mills, 33, also has $6.2 million player option.
As for his teammate and friend, KD spoke about both Irving’s frustration at not being on the court in Brooklyn. He noted in passing that Irving had thought his situation would be resolved by now.
“He’s frustrated in not being able to play,” Durant said. “He figured this stuff would be rolled back by now, we’d be way past this. But it’s the situation we’re in, we got to deal with it, he’s got to deal with it.”
Durant, who criticized Mayor Eric Adams on March 13 then had to walk it back a day later, said he’s “trusting” that the situation will be resolved.
“Trusting that it’ll get figured out there soon. I have no clue what may happen, but I’m just trusting that things will work itself out. But I’m sure he misses playing in front of a home crowd and the home crowd, vice versa, they miss him,” said Durant who spent time Sunday afternoon with hundreds of season ticket-holders. “So hopefully we get it figured out soon,”
It’s the city’s private employer mandate that’s keeping Irving off the court in New York. The mandate requires that employers with more than 100 workers to deny access to the unvaccinated. KD held out no hope for Irving to get vaccinated.
“I mean, what is it, April almost?” Durant said. “It’s pretty obvious that he’s not going to take the shot. So like I said, just focus on who you are and what you bring to the team every day and once that situation gets figured out, then it will. It’s out of my control, it’s out of everybody else’s control. So you can’t force anybody to do anything. So just try to just focus on me.”
Even if Irving decided to get vaccinated today, he wouldn’t be able to play in New York until the post-season. The mandate requires employees to be “fully vaccinated,” which the city defines as an individual who’s “two weeks past their second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine”.
Durant also spoke at length about why Irving’s teammates and fans have such affection for him.
“We love Kyrie as a human being,” Durant said. “I don’t think we were ever upset at him as much as people on the outside were. We get that it may affect the outcome of some basketball games, but that’s not the only reason why we love Kyrie as a person because what he can bring to the court. I think overall him as a human being, we respect who he is, we respect the game on top of that.
“He made the decision for himself, so you just got to respect it and move forward. We wasn’t coming in here every day pissed off at him because he wasn’t around. We’re just trying to focus on us individually and who was in this building as a collective and let that stuff work itself out. When he was able to come back in here, it felt like nothing changed.”
As for Simmons, Durant said that while the Nets want him back, they are willing to wait till he’s healthy.
“He’s doing good,” Durant said of Simmons. “He looks good as far as just walking around and being around the team. Haven’t seen him do anything on the basketball court as much, but a couple walk-through things. But I think his spirits are in the right place and he’s excited to be a part of the group and looking forward to having him out on the floor. I definitely don’t want him to rush back for us and his back is not right, so take all the time he needs to get his body right and once he’s out there we’re ready to rock and roll.”
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