The Brooklyn Nets will never forget June 30, 2019 — the day they shocked the NBA world.
Inking Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant and Boston Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving, respectfully, to max contracts, certainly changed the landscape of the Eastern Conference. Durant, recovering from a torn Achilles at the time, returned in 2020-21 and eventually transformed them into an Eastern Conference powerhouse.
Then, came former Houston Rockets superstar James Harden, who was traded to Brooklyn early in the regular season, thus forming a new “Big 3.”
However, none of it would have been possible if Wayne Pratt — Durant’s “occasionally estranged father,” — according to author Matt Sullivan’s new book, “Can’t Knock The Hustle: Inside The Season of Protest, Pandemic, and Progress with The Brooklyn Nets’ Superstars of Tomorrow,” had his way.
2019: Kevin Durant Asks Father, ‘What You Think About Brooklyn?’
The book shares accounts of how Irving and Durant’s plan of joining forces in Brooklyn came to fruition, including summer 2019 when Kevin first hinted his plans to his father.
“KD texted his dad: What you think about Brooklyn?” Sullivan wrote in his new book. “Like his agent, KD’s occasionally estranged father, Wayne Pratt, was a Knicks fan. When Wayne told his son that he’d taken a video-conference call from the Knicks executives Steve Mills and Scott Perry, and that the Knicks were trying to turn away KD’s interest from Brooklyn before free agency had officially begun, the father-son text chain blew up with expletives. KD didn’t think it was on anyone to mess with his personal freedom.
“Plus, this Knicks meeting seemed to be a violation of the NBA’s rules against tampering, to “entice, induce or persuade” one player under contract to sign somewhere.”
Kevin Durant’s Father Once Told His Son: ‘Be a Knick!’
After a frustrated Durant confronted his father, it led to a heated exchange.
“Let me explain one f****** thing to you, his dad responded,” Sullivan wrote. “Don’t you ever question my integrity. There’s nobody more important in this world when it comes to you THAN YOU.
Well, why can’t I do something different?
The Knicks is Mecca, KD’s dad declared. If you want to do it, do it big! If you want to be a New Yorker, be a Knick!”
Durant’s Father Asked Kevin: ‘Are You Doing This Just For Kyrie?’
Durant’s father went as far as questioning his son’s true intentions and if Kevin’s decision to head to Brooklyn had more to do with Kyrie Irving than Durant was leading on.
“New York City was the Mecca of basketball, and KD wanted to live there. But he felt like Brooklyn was his vibe: “chill, on the low, all-black everything.” He’d been eyeing the Nets for years now, and they him,” Sullivan added. “Dad shot back: Are you doing this just for Kyrie cuz he your buddy?
No, KD replied. He was making this decision for himself.”
In the opening round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, the Nets beat the Celtics 4-1 in the opening round’s best-of-7 series. However, Harden was ruled out in the following best-of-7 series.
Then, Irving suffered a right ankle sprain in Game 4 of the Nets’ Eastern Conference semifinal, best-of-7 series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
After Game 7’s season-ending loss to the Bucks, Harden revealed he played through a Grade 2 hamstring strain — which forced him to miss the first four games of the best-of-7 series against Milwaukee and plagued his performances the rest of the way.
He averaged 10.8 points on a 23.8% clip, including 16.7% throughout the Nets’ final three games against the Bucks.