Forget everything that has jinxed, disturbed and confused the Nets this season. There was a reason to tune in every night to watch and then play – at least 55 days and nights, anyway. Kevin Durant is that reason.
Otherwise, nothing has gone according to plan in this three-year chapter. The Nets were quickly released from the bubble in 2020. James Harden pushed his way here, arrived, played well, got disillusioned, pushed his way out, all within 14 months. Kyrie Irving has been injured, has not been vaccinated and is unavailable. The Nets would win 60 games this year. They settled on 44 and ended up needing a hot 12-5 streak to get there.
Through it all, Durant was great.
Through it all, Durant has been the only thing the networks can count on, game after game, night after night, crisis after crisis. He was given a novice coach and all he has done is help make Steve Nash’s job easier for him. He received two side stars in Harden and Irving, who were chronically unreliable, and a third, Ben Simmons, who has yet to qualify for the Nets – and just played at an almost unimaginably high level.
Still, at age 33, Durant has remained the third or fourth-best basketball player in the world, averaging 29.9/7.4/6.4 and shooting .518/.383/.910 at worst.
(One man’s list, for kicks and giggles: 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo; 2. Nikola Jokic; 3. Durant; 4. Joel Embiid. Although I’d vote Jokic for MVP.)
He has a knack for handling most things well. He may have crossed the line a few weeks ago and pressured Mayor Adams to overturn the mandate, but that was the result of five months of pent-up frustration. He gets a mulligan for that. And for his heartfelt, thoughtful comments about Tuesday morning’s shooting on the Brooklyn subway.
“It’s devastating to hear about it,” Durant said Tuesday morning after the Nets’ walk-through in anticipation of their play-in game against the Cavaliers Tuesday night at the Barclays Center.
“To hear the sirens outside the practice facility and to see so much commotion outside, one hopes and prays for the best for everyone involved.”
Durant was similarly thoughtful when discussing the MVP race. There’s no denying that while Durant was playing at the MVP level all of this year, he was simply derailed by a transverse knee for 25+ games. He concedes it will hurt his chances when the votes are tallied anytime soon.
“If I had to choose, I would go with Joel Embiid,” Durant said. “He led the league in doubles doubles, his team has won 50 games this year. Numbers were incredible. It’s a great year.
“But you can just close your eyes and just pick one of the guys from the top six or seven and you can have a good MVP this year. It shows how great our league is right now and how talented our league is from top to bottom, but I would choose Embiid if I had to choose.”
Among those six or seven is, of course, Durant, who has continually shrugged off the various and varied issues that have attempted to undermine the networks’ mission. In truth, he’s the main reason the Nets are still to have a mission.
“I understand why I’m not participating in this conversation,” Durant said. “But I’m sure there are a lot of guys in the league who play MVP basketball for their clubs. That’s helping their clubs reach heights they’re unlikely to reach this year [without them], but when it comes to the whole league, there are so many great players playing right now that it’s hard to choose. But I can honestly say that maybe 10 or 12 of us can join this conversation.
“It’s pretty cool to see that in our league.”
And comforting to Nets fans who have known all year that no matter what, there’s always number 7. Not a bad thing to have a player like Durant on your side and not someone else’s.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/12/kevin-durants-brilliance-a-nets-constant-during-rough-season/ Kevin Durant’s brilliance has been a constant for the Nets during the rough season