Usually, the NBA free agency period causes a ruckus during the league’s offseason. But this summer, one man alone caused a shift in the atmosphere. Brooklyn Nets star forward Kevin Durant left the NBA world in awe when he requested a trade from the franchise on June 30. It led to a tug of war between the Nets’ front office and their franchise player because they were both stubborn in their requests. Durant wanted out, and Nets owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks wanted fair compensation for trading one of their franchise stars.
After nearly two months of looking for a trade and being unsuccessful in finding one, both sides decided that the best option was for Durant to return to the Nets this season. Of course, returning to Brooklyn alone won’t hide Durant from criticism. He must deliver as the Nets are still hungry to secure the franchise’s first-ever NBA title. ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith says if the Nets don’t win the Eastern Conference, it will be a huge stain on Durant.
“KD, Kyrie, and Ben Simmons, on the court together, healthy? I’m going with Brooklyn,” Smith said during a recent taping of ESPN First Take.
“In the end, Brooklyn should be the team that comes out of the East. And if they don’t, boy is it going to be a stain on KD, no doubt about it.”
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Kyrie Irving Has a Lot To Prove in 2023
Durant will not be the only Nets star under an insurmountable amount of pressure this season. Nets star Kyrie Irving will also have all eyes on him. By many fans around the league, Irving is viewed as the catalyst that jumpstarted the Nets’ disaster of a 2022 season.
His refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccination, which was mandated for him to play home games, allowed him to play just 29 games for the Nets. Multiple reports have even suggested it was a part of the reason James Harden requested a trade in the middle of last season.
But this year, there are no COVID-19 restrictions, and Irving is entering training camp with a clean bill of health. He is also entering a contract year. After failing to agree on the terms of a contract extension with the Nets, Irving will be a free agent in 2023. He has a lot to prove to the Nets and everyone else around the league about just how good he still is.
Adding Ben Simmons Gives Nets New Dynamic
James Harden is one of the most prolific players the NBA has ever seen. His ability to score in volumes and set the table for his teammates makes him a dual threat on offense. But with all due respect, Harden requesting a trade from the Nets last season may end up being a blessing in disguise.
Although it must have been tough to trade Harden, getting back a 3-time All-Star in Ben Simmons is not a bad consolation prize. Simmons gives Brooklyn a dynamic that was absent with Harden as the third member of their All-Star trio. That being a defensive identity.
In his last NBA season, Simmons was a Defensive Player of the Year finalist. That was when he was playing with another elite defender in Joel Embiid. Simmons will be the clear-cut best defender on this Nets squad. Adding his defensive prowess could make them a tough out come playoff time.