We are in the home stretch of the Off-Season. Media Day is September 26. Training Camp opens the next Day. September 28 is the 10th anniversary of the Jay-Z concert that opened Barclays Center. Day after that, it’s Happy 34th, Kevin Durant!
Durant will no doubt have a happy birthday, oblivious to all the attacks on his character and his leadership that have mounted since he first asked for a trade, then rescinded it in hopes of bringing that elusive championship to Brooklyn, New York. He is, after all, Kevin Durant. We know who he is.
But not surprisingly, he has taken his hits, the most recent from the TNT crew, specifically Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal. As the New York Post reported.
“Yeah, if you go back and look at his career,” O’Neal said. “As the best player and being the leader, and all that goes with that. See we were there, we saw it. OKC, up 3-1. One more game, and when you’re the guy, all the pressure goes on you.”
O’Neal also rehashed Barkley’s multiple comments calling Durant a “bus rider” and questioned his two titles with Golden State, where he teamed up with future Hall of Famers in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.
“A lot of people were talking about the bus driver, Chuck was absolutely right. He was not driving the bus in Golden State,” Shaq said, adding, “You were on the bus, you were sitting up front…
Sigh. We all have to fill blank pages or blank spaces on the air, but it still seems odd that Durant gets all this crap. Putting aside the fact that he twice won Finals MVP in Golden State or that the bus driver/rider analogy is just plain dumb. Isn’t this supposed to be a team game where everyone contributes, everyone pulls together towards a common goal, dealing with surprises along the way?
On a bus (and I’m only familiar with NJ Transit and the MTA), the driver has a set route and schedule. All his passengers (hopefully) are passive, merely checking their watches to see if things are on time or reading the news. Unscheduled stops are rare and detours are usually known before the bus leaves the garage in the morning. Not so in the NBA.
Then, there’s Barkley’s own record of never winning anything other than in the Olympics where he has two golds to Durant’s three. Most of Barkley’s achievements, as great as they are and he is, are individual. Shaq, of course, is different, but Shaq’s rings were accomplished with Kobe Bryant and Dywane Wade, with whom he did not always have great relationships.
Has KD responded? Well, not by text but he did have some fun after Sir Charles latest comment...
Nah this was KDs profile picture for a few minutes pic.twitter.com/618ZEoxJid— Brooklyn Netcast (@BrooklynNetcast) August 28, 2022
He also had this to say in a general comment on Saturday morning...
U gotta grow up and realize that nothing but haters reside on twitter https://t.co/XgtLvcw2i9— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) September 3, 2022
Of course, Barkley and O’Neal are not alone with so many pundits — and yes, some Nets fans — counting KD out after his summer of discontent. He is no longer, in certain quarters, seen as the best player in the world and certainly Giannis Antetokounmpo and of course LeBron James qualify and yes, he has been hurt (90 games in three years) and will, as noted, turn 34 later this month.
BUT, it is easy to forget that Durant was on his way to a MVP season and the Nets were the No. 1 seed in January when he sprained his MCL during a period when because of others’ injuries — and his friend’s refusal to get vaccinated — he was playing 40 minutes a game and telling reporters, “let me die out there.” Did we mention that James Harden had the vapors, seemed faint of heart and wanted out after that?
He is listed on sports books as unlikely to win the MVP this season despite ample motivation and past perfmance. Most stories about Kevin Wayne Durant this September are about his trade request or his anticipated decline. There are even those who suggest that the Nets would be better off with Jaylen Brown! They remain in the minority.
And by extension, the Nets too are being dismissed as championship contenders with the Celtics, Bucks and 76ers at least being seen as having better chances at getting to the NBA Finals. The Cavaliers following the Donovan Mitchell trade are the flavor of the month and that’s fine. Not everyone is down on the Nets chances. There’s Mike Greenberg of ESPN for example.
In the meantime, Durant is working. Sean Marks is working. Getting to the final game of the season is hard, as we know. Last year at this time, with Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, the Nets were favored to win it all. This year not so much. Good. We got them where we want them ... doubting.
Kyrie Irving talks Shop
Kyrie Irving was among a very eclectic group featured on the latest episode of the Uninterrupted this week. In addition to the seven-time All-Star, there was as Maverick Carter, LeBron James business manager; Idris Elba, the British actor; Drew Barrymore, the American actress; Paul Rabil, founder of the Premier Lacrosse League where his partners include Joe and Clara Wu Tsai; and Paul Rivera, co-creator with Carter of the series.
Here’s the full video...
Irving’s comments on playing with LeBron and KD got most of the headlines, saying superstars need help.
“Playing with Bron and playing with KD, within our culture they are true icons. But I had to fill in those shoes that were very uncomfortable for me.”
But Irving also talked about some lesser known but no less interesting aspects of his live and career, two of them about his childhood growing up in New Jersey. Here’s what he said about his “nerdy” interest in making money off basketball!
“I was a nerd way before I was an athlete. Like, just a quirky, awkward kid. So I did it based on the ROI in fourth grade, because my dad’s a financial sector head. He knows a lot of information about the market, saw him wake up (at) 5:30, 6 a.m. to go to Wall Street. So, I got a different perspective. Fourth grade I went to my closet and I said, ‘I am going to the NBA.’”
“So just imagine me in fourth grade, I’m looking at the ROI (return on investment) on what NBA players make per year. And I’m just doing this as a curious young man exploring the world. And now that I’m 30 years old, I have (a) fiduciary responsibility to the Players Association, representing not just me now, but the next generation to come after. It can be a lot to handle, when you learn about the tension behind the scenes.”
The most intriguing — and revealing — element of his comments was his revelation about the basis of his ambidextrous ball-handling, how it may have come, oddly enough, in Catholic school where as a toddler teachers wanted to turn him from being left-handed!
“Catholic school didn’t let me stay left-handed... Absolutely [I was left-handed]. I was getting slapped on the hand for writing with my left hand. That was old-school, this was 96.”
In answering Carter’s question about whether he can write lefty, Irving responded, “I can do both” and when Barrymore asked what it feels like to touch the ball with his left hand, Irving smiled as one of the others in the group, said, “have you seen him play?”
“[It feels] natural. Both sides of my brain are unlocked, if you’re asking me.”
Irving also touched on the many controversies he’s been part of…
“My history is my history. I’ve done some quirky sh*t in public and some quirky sh*t behind the scenes and I’ve dealt with the vilification of that.”
Welcome, Coach Burrell
There’s been no official announcement but Emilio Carchia of Sportando has reported that Ronnie Burrell, a former Long Island Nets assistant coach and Chicago Bulls player development coordinator, is the new head coach in Long Island. Burrell’s own LinkedIn page confirms it, his profile saying he got the job in August.
Burrell was born in Livingston, N.J. and played for Montclair High School, He had a successful career that began in UNC Greensboro then saw him play 11 seasons for several teams in Germany, France and Poland along with stops in the then D-League. He even had two Summer League stints with the Seattle Supersonics. He began a coaching career, first as a graduate assistant at Florida Atlantic University while earning his Master of Business Administration, joining Brooklyn as a player development and video assistant before being elevated to assistant coach in Long Island, then the Chicago move.
Here he is talking to a Chicago podcaster about player development...
Burrell’s hire means a new top of the staff directory in Uniondale. As Carchia also reported, J.R. Holden, the Nets director of player personnel, is moving into two new jobs: GM of the Long Island Nets and Director of Scouting Operations in Brooklyn. Burrell is replacing Adam Caporn, now an assistant coach on Steve Nash’s staff while Holden is replacing Matt Riccardi, who’s moved into a player development position with the Mavs.
In the gym
From what we can tell — mainly from images posted on the Nets social media sites — all but a few Nets have been working out at HSS Training Center in recent weeks. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry and the two new additions, Yuta Watanabe and Markieff Morris, haven’t been pictured yet at 136 39th Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. That will likely change in the coming days. Players usually gather at training sites shortly after Labor Day.
Here’s some pics of various Nets doing everything from working on their game or strength and conditioning...
What can we tell from the images? Ben Simmons seems to have bulked up; Day’Ron Sharpe is more toned, Nic Claxton looks more serious. No word on whether Simmons has moved from 3-on-3 workouts to full 5-on-5, as Shams Charania predicted he would, or anything at all re Joe Harris’ situation. Both were expected to be ready when camp opens on September 27 following Media Day the day before after surgeries in May (Simmons back) and and March (Harris ankle.) Same with Curry who also underwent surgery in early May on his ankle.
So where’s KD? According to the tweet below, he has not stopped his peripatetic ways which have taken him to St. Tropez on the French Riviera to London to Barcelona and to Los Angeles just in the last month. Back in July, he was in Monaco and Athens with his pal Mike James. Most recently, he was spotted in the Turks and Caicos, the British colony halfway between the Bahamas and Dominican Republic, with some pretty cool fellow tourists...
KD , Drake, Popcaan and J Cole chillin in Turks and Caicos pic.twitter.com/vLgJAxla6n— Mcgrady (@dou_mcgrady) August 31, 2022
He should be home soon.