NBA Exec: Kevin Durant Statement Just ‘Made it Harder’ for Nets in Playoffs

Kevin Durant (left) of the Nets, with Kyrie Irving (middle)

Getty Kevin Durant (left) of the Nets, with Kyrie Irving (middle)

The Nets have been putting on a bold NBA front, exuding confidence while traversing a season littered with land mines.

Indeed, taken as whole, Brooklyn should fear no one in the postseason — no matter its starting position. Even with Ben Simmons’ back injury bringing uncertainty to his debut (and if he’ll have enough time to mesh), there is still enough All-Star power to compete.

But with a mere 12 games left — in just three of which Kyrie Irving is currently eligible to participate because he is prevented by New York City’s vaccine mandate– a deep shiver of concern has crept into the borough.

“You look ahead at how this could shake out, and if it plays out a certain way, it’s going to be tough,” a Nets source told

Barring a major run, the Nets appear fated to the play-in tournament. If it began today, they would be the 8th seed and have a meeting with the 7th-seeded Raptors in Toronto. Because of COVID policies there, an unvaccinated Irving would not be able to play.

A loss there wouldn’t eliminate Brooklyn, which would have one more chance to make the best-of-seven rounds by winning a game against the winner of the 9-10 matchup (currently Charlotte-Atlanta). But the Nets would have to play that game at home, where the rules still prevent Irving from taking the court.

There was some reasonable hope and even expectation that the New York policies would be relaxed to the point where unvaxxed players for the local teams could take part, but said hope may have been mortally wounded a few days ago. Worse yet, it was an inside job.

Kevin Durant likely painted New York mayor Eric Adams into a corner while expressing his frustrations after a close home win over the Knicks.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Durant of the city’s vaccination mandate that allows unvaxxed opponents to play, but not the un-jabbed from the host club.

“I don’t get it. It just feels like at this point now, somebody’s trying to make a statement or a point to flex their authority. But everybody out here is looking for attention and that’s what I feel like the mayor wants right now is some attention. But he’ll figure it out soon. He better.”

Durant tried to walk back his comments in a subsequent statement released by the team, but the damage was done.

“He just made it harder on the mayor to make the change,” said a league source. “No question. How would it look if he pulls the vax mandate right now and lets Kyrie play? It would look like he’s caving to the pressure.

“I can understand KD’s frustration, but that wasn’t smart. He’s got to realize that what he says carries.

“If the COVID numbers continue to improve, we still think there’s a good chance the mandate is lifted. But it might take longer than we’d hoped.”

All-NBA Voting Mess

Jayson Tatum was critical of the media voting for All-NBA teams, noting on a recent podcast that he believes petty issues can get in the way — and it can be costly.

Tatum would have been eligible for a $32.6 million bonus on his rookie contract extension had he made one of the three teams as voted on by 100 selectors, but he said his displeasure wasn’t about the money. He just believed he was one of the 15 best players.

“It’s all, ‘I like this guy more,’ or certain things like that,” Tatum said. “There’s just a little too much on the line for that.”

While I personally stopped accepting ballots and voting on the awards many years ago (I don’t like the ethics or even optics of having our votes tied directly to a player’s financial situation), I disagree with Tatum’s point about the media’s handling of the task. With the ballots made public, each voter is under pressure to be able to justify his or her picks for All-NBA and the other awards.

And Tatum might find it interesting that another system might not be favorable to him or others.

In voting for this year’s All-Star Game, Tatum finished fourth in the Eastern Conference frontcourt balloting determined from a combination of players, fans and media. Fans accounted for 50 percent, with the other two 25 percent each.

All 98 media members voted for Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid, who got the three spots (in that order), leaving everyone else in a tie for fourth.

But votes were more spread in the other groups. While both had the same three players in order as the media, fans ranked Tatum fourth with nearly two million votes.

However, the Celtic star finished sixth in the player voting, with Charlotte’s Miles Bridges and Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen ahead of him.

And while All-NBA can set contract levels for players, there are financial benefits at stake for some in making the All-Star Game. For example, Jaylen Brown would have earned a nice $1.4 million bonus if he’d been chosen as a starter by the votes, as a reserve by the coaches or even as an injury replacement by commissioner Adam Silver.

Among those getting more than one frontcourt vote from players were Goga Bitadze, Udonis Haslem, Deni Avdija, Georges Niang and Tatum’s former Celtic teammate Juancho Hernangomez.

Ray and KG: ‘I Still Remember Him as Kevin’

Ray Allen thinks it may have been a recollection of the South Carolina roots that helped bring him back together with Kevin Garnett, who had been harboring resentment for Allen leaving the Celtics for Miami as a free agent in 2012.

The two reunited with a hug during Garnett’s number retirement ceremony in Boston Sunday. To Allen, it was about more than getting that Celtic core back together.

“I think when I sit here, I don’t think about 2009, 10 and 11, you know, any of those years,” Allen said. “I think about 1993, 92. Like I still remember him as, you know, Kevin, the kid that was trying to, you know, hit on my sister and asked her out on a date. And we used to go up to Columbia and practice against the kids from USC (University of South Carolina). That’s the guy that I always remember.

“And, you know, for me to have some sense of humility and, you know, just normalcy, you can’t ever think about these great moments like this because you got to remember where you come from. And that’s what has allowed us to get to this level, because we’ve always been pushing and working tirelessly to be the best — not to raise numbers to the rafters, but just to make that other opponent fear us and our teammates love us.”


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