The Brooklyn Nets All-Star trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons will take the floor during the regular season for the first time on October 19 against the rising Western Conference contender New Orleans Pelicans. Simmons was traded to the Nets by the Philadelphia 76ers on February 10, but a recurring back injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Also returning to the floor is Zion Williamson, who was held out last season due to a fractured foot. Despite his injury, the Pelicans were able to make the playoffs and take the top-seeded Phoenix Suns to the brink in the first round, albeit in a losing effort. Adding a former top pick in Williamson, who many still believe is a generational talent, will only make them more dangerous in a loaded Western Conference.
Durant had some high praise for the Pelicans star ahead of their bout on Wednesday.
“You’ve seen guys at that size, 6-7, that can get up and down the floor and move, but not at that level, though. You’ve seen guys like Jason Maxiell. I’m not saying they jump as high as Zion, but they were undersized guys that played bigger. And Zion’s one of those guys,” Durant said to reporters via NetsDaily.
“Rodney Rogers — I’m missing so many guys that were that tall at 6-6, Charles Barkley, bruiser-type guys but played bigger. But Zion’s athleticism trumps all of theirs by far. When you add that to the mix, it makes him a one-of-one.”
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Durant Sounds off on Pelicans Matchup
The Pelicans have done a great job reconstructing their team since departing with Anthony Davis in 2019. They added another bonafide star, Brandon Ingram, in the trade, and drafted Zion Williamson that same summer. Last season they made a blockbuster trade for Portland Trail Blazers Star CJ McCollum and found themselves a gem in undrafted rookie guard Jose Alvarado.
With such a variety of talented players, Durant knows he and the Nets are in for a fight on Wednesday.
“We know those players (Williamson, McCollum, and Ingram) individually. Willie (Green) is an amazing coach, teacher of the game, good person that the young guys can resonate with, so you know they’re going to play hard for him,” Durant added.
“So, when you’ve got that much talent, you can pretty much be versatile with your group. And we’ll see what happens on Wednesday and we’re looking forward to a tough game.”
Steve Nash Praises ‘Gifted’ Williamson
Williamson, a generational talent, has dealt with his share of injuries since entering the league in 2019. He only played 24 games in his rookie season after suffering a torn meniscus. He played most of his sophomore season, but did miss 11 games with two separate hand injuries.
After signing a monster 5-year, $231 million rookie max contract extension in July, he and the Pelicans are hoping this is the year he plays all 82 games. Nets head coach Steve Nash says that despite Zion being limited because of his injury history, the Nets have to prepare for the best version of him in the season opener.
“I guess there is some trickiness to it: Which Zion do you get? But I think you’d be foolish not to expect an exceptional player. He’s so talented and gifted. He causes problems for everybody, no matter, I think, what state his body and game is in. He’s still such a unique athlete and player,” Nash said via NetsDaily.
“So, we’ve got to be prepared. We can’t expect anything less than his best or we’ll be surprised, and we’ll be second. And when you’re reactive, you’re in trouble.”
The offseason is officially over. It is time for the Nets to show they are worth the price of admission.