Kyrie Irving Kevin Durant Brooklyn Nets

Why Nets fans aren’t in love with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant yet

  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Kevin Durant
  • Kyrie Irving
  • NBA
By Sammy Bovitz August 12, 2020 0 Comment
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In summer 2019, the Brooklyn Nets acquired Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in a heist of the crosstown Knicks. The fact that two incredible players were coming to a franchise only a couple of years removed from being a laughingstock was a big deal. It’s also why the Nets fanbase hasn’t attached themselves to these superstars yet. 

Started from the bottom

First of all, we need to understand how the Nets rose from what is probably one of the worst trades of the 21st century. Back in the mid-2010s, the Nets essentially traded 5 years of first-round picks for aging stars in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. This allowed the already surging Celtics to keep picking up young talent like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. This trade has had huge repercussions across the NBA, but let’s focus on how the Nets clawed their way back.

Garnett and Pierce did not pan out and the Nets quickly became one of the worst teams in the league. This was, due to the trade, without the benefit of young talent coming in through first-round picks. This meant newly hired general manager Sean Marks had to scramble to find any young talent and picks as possible, usually through taking on large salaries. He also traded away any talented players he had with eyes on the future, along with keeping an eye on any overlooked players he could groom into key pieces.

Eventually, the Nets assembled their 2018-19 core of exiled Laker guard D’Angelo Russell, drafted guard Caris LeVert and drafted center Jarrett Allen, and free-agent signees in guards Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris. This allowed the Nets to have a winning record and reach the playoffs. This Nets team was one that seemingly came out of nowhere, but loyal fans delighted in their against-all-odds success. A championship wasn’t in the cards, but the fact that Brooklyn was even in the playoffs at all was fantastic. A playoff victory against a 76ers team that was among the best in the NBA was joyful even though it would be the only one Brooklyn would get. 

Into free agency

After that magical 2018-19 season, a free agency period was coming up guaranteeing to shake the league. Going in, many Nets fans agreed on two things. First, the desire to bring D’Angelo Russell back. Russell absolutely dominated in 2018-19, lighting up the opposing point guard on a near-nightly basis. Second, that Brooklyn had something special brewing and only needed another key piece to reach 50+ wins. What many thought the Nets needed was a versatile power forward who could both shoot and get it done inside. The perfect fit for this was Tobias Harris, who faced the Nets as a part of that 76ers team. He was clearly interested in what the Nets had, and it seemed that Harris would either stay in Philly or be Brooklyn-bound. Many wanted an extension for Russell and either a large contract to Harris or a smaller deal to someone like Nikola Mirotić.

Package deal problems

Then rumors started flying that Kyrie Irving was very interested in coming to Brooklyn. There were a few conflicts preventing this from being seen as a positive development. First, very few wanted him to come in and replace D’Angelo Russell. He was the face of the Nets. On the other hand, if Kyrie was coming to Brooklyn, Kevin Durant would likely follow. While Nets fans didn’t really want Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant was the ultimate prize. That said, a scenario where he would team up with Russell was fairly unrealistic. In addition, Durant was still recovering from an ACL tear and wouldn’t play until at least 2020.

The third and most important problem was the reputation of Kyrie Irving. Sure, he was an incredible player, but his odd tenure with the Celtics made many uneasy. If Kyrie joined the Nets, one of two things would likely happen. In one scenario, Kyrie would be fed up with the Nets’ player development system and that they weren’t completely catering to him and ask to leave. In the other, or the Nets would bend to his– and Durant’s– will. I was afraid of both for completely different reasons. If the first happened, Nets fans would have to defend their brilliant player development system at the expense of being humiliated. If the second happened, the fans would be split between being a Nets fan or a fan of the duo.

Questions and answers

A few days later, the news broke– Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and DeAndre Jordan were all signing with Brooklyn. After celebrating, the Nets fan base had questions that seemed to have answers they wouldn’t like. Sure enough, D’Angelo Russell was leaving for Golden State.

Attention then turned to the surprise third member of this new core: DeAndre Jordan. It was known that he was friends with both of the main stars, so what would this mean for the rising Jarrett Allen? No one was sure, but many hoped coach Kenny Atkinson would stay true to the development system and start Allen. Not only was this the right move, but a bench pairing of Jordan and Spencer Dinwiddie would also be a powerful asset. That’s exactly what he did, with repercussions coming later. Finally, what would Kyrie Irving become? 

Where we are now

For this question, the 2019-20 Brooklyn Nets would have to play. Kenny Atkinson was a great coach, and one of the reasons these stars were attracted to Brooklyn. That said, he stepped down, likely due to conflicts with this new era of Nets basketball. This seemed like the start of that second scenario mentioned earlier. One of the main reasons he clashed with Irving and Durant was his insistence to start Allen over Jordan, which was the right move. Jordan’s still a solid player, but he’s a shell of himself, and Allen needed time to further develop.

Sure enough, once Jacque Vaughn was installed as interim head coach, he began to start Jordan. While Vaughn’s been a good coach– and Jordan’s unavailable, so Allen’s starting now anyway– it would have been great to see what Atkinson could have done with two elite players.

The second problem was of Kyrie Irving’s health. Durant was hurt, of course, but Kyrie seemed fine. This was until he went down with season-ending shoulder surgery in February. Under normal circumstances, this would be accepted. But then a little thing called COVID-19 happened, and playoff basketball was delayed until late July. Durant wouldn’t return, but Kyrie doing so was a distinct possibility. Typical shoulder surgery recoveries take 4-6 months. Kyrie finished his surgery successfully in early March. Irving could have realistically returned for the playoffs in August but has ruled that out whenever he’s been asked about it. This makes sense from a medical standpoint, but not all basketball fans look at things from a medical standpoint.

In conclusion

Nets fans don’t love Kyrie and KD yet because it seems like nearly all they’ve done so far make things more difficult. Kyrie Irving is a great player, but many fans won’t ever like him, simply because he’s not D’Angelo Russell. Kevin Durant hasn’t played a single game yet. DeAndre Jordan is actively screwing up the development of a promising young center because of the friends he has. This caused the coach that has been so instrumental in bringing the Nets back to relevance to be kicked to the curb. He somehow still does not have a job, and Brooklyn will regret his departure.

Caris LeVert– one of the most promising young Brooklyn players– is now constantly in trade rumors for Bradley Beal. Beal would be an upgrade, but not enough to be worth losing LeVert and potentially Allen in the process. Irving has played just 20 games, Durant has played 0, and Jordan is having his worst season statistically since 2012.

But success aside, this team does not feel like the Nets that fans fell in love with so recently. This team right now is a mashup of demanding stars who aren’t playing and the remnants of the Nets’ old core not given the respect and roles they deserve. Obviously, this will all not matter if the two incredible talents return and become one of the best tandems in basketball, leading the Nets to true contention, but right now, that day seems very far away. 


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