He traded Stephen Curry for Kyrie Irving two years in the past. That’s a swap others would possibly’ve hesitated to do even earlier than Irving took a controversial vaccine stand that successfully pressured him to sit.
After all, Kevin Durant if nothing else travels his personal path, performs by his personal guidelines and listens to his personal beat — privileges which can be made potential whenever you’re one of many two or three greatest NBA gamers on the planet. Durant earned that proper way back when he demonstrated a capability to empower himself and any franchise fortunate to have him. You flex your freedom to your satisfaction in that state of affairs and nobody else’s.
Your selection, nonetheless, does include penalties — identical as everybody else’s. And proper now, inspecting the present state of his earlier and present groups, and weighing the value of Curry and Irving, it’s honest to marvel: Did Durant select correctly when he bailed on the Warriors in 2019?
The Nets are dribbling a ball of confusion right here within the wee hours of a brand new season. They’re locked in a championship-or-bust actuality, with no wiggle room for error. That is the single-minded pursuit whenever you put three in-their-prime future Corridor of Famers in uniform for that very purpose.
However the early returns of a protracted season are difficult for Durant and the Nets. They’re looking for that championship traction. James Harden is off to a gentle begin and the previous Kia MVP is probably bedeviled by new rule modifications that not honor his capability to attract fouls. The supporting solid is okay, however once more, they’re for help solely.
And anyway, it’s all concerning the elephant within the room, who was instructed by the Nets to depart the room and keep dwelling.
Irving is busy sitting, whereas Curry is busy cooking. No one is aware of how lengthy both will development in these instructions, however the secure cash is on Curry for apparent causes. He’s coming off an MVP-finalist 12 months and is closing in on the NBA’s all-time lead in 3-pointers made. He just lately dropped 50 factors and 10 assists in a sport and nonetheless stays the most effective teammate Durant ever had.
Durant and Curry are the 2 main scorers within the league proper now, respectively, whereas additionally holding down the highest two spots in Michael C. Wright’s newest Kia MVP Ladder. Each are additionally the reigning NBA Gamers of the Week.
In the meantime, Irving is holding agency on his reluctance to obtain the vaccine. Who knew that the man who disrupted the Warriors dynasty in 2016 with a legendary jumper would flip down not only one shot, however two?
In a curious coincidence, that Sport 7 pull-up 3-pointer by Irving was launched over Curry’s outstretched fingertips. It was a cold-blooded Finals second frozen in time and gave Irving and his skills the last word stamp of approval.
Nicely, a second approval was stamped a number of years later when Durant, as a free agent, surprisingly bailed on Curry and the Warriors following three fruitful seasons and hitched his future as a substitute with Irving.
As Durant prepares to fulfill his former co-star and group Tuesday when the league-leading Warriors play in Brooklyn (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT), the Nets are leaning heavier on Durant than they initially thought, or wished to, at this level. Loopy factor is, Durant is greater than able to carrying the freight. He has scored 20 or extra in all 14 video games to start out the season, one shy of Karl Malone’s document.
He’s averaging 29.6 factors per sport on an astonishing 58.6% capturing. He’s additionally grabbing 8.4 rebounds per sport and inflicting issues for the opposite bench, which is customary for him. He’s, as he as soon as famously mentioned, Kevin Durant — “you already know who I’m.” Certainly.
However bear in mind, this superteam was designed with superstars — plural — in thoughts. Harden and Irving and Durant, an epic trio, poised to erase the Knicks within the minds of New Yorkers, win titles and provide a solution to the well-known query shouted within the largest Borough: The place Brooklyn at?
This would possibly finally occur if the moons and Irving’s moods are aligned.
Durant in public is steadfast in his perception concerning the Nets. He mentioned in early October “after all now we have sufficient” to win with out Irving, which truly isn’t a daring assertion within the common season.
He added: “Whereas we’re enjoying in a sport, I’m not going to take a seat there and say … after we get down or it’s a tight sport, like ‘Rattling, we don’t have sufficient.’ We undoubtedly need Kyrie Irving out right here on the ground. And he is a big a part of what we do. However it isn’t taking place proper now. So we obtained to determine it out … nobody goes to lose confidence and hope Kyrie comes to avoid wasting us. We obtained to play. Everyone right here has confidence in what they do.”
However within the right here and now, Durant and the Nets are staring on the potential of Harden being diminished by rule modifications and probably Father Time … and in addition the prospect of Irving digging in his sneaker heels and by no means returning this season.
The native authorities’s vaccine mandate means Irving is not going to play any dwelling video games at Barclays Heart, and the Nets, weary of the drama, didn’t need a part-time participant within the lineup in order that they instructed Irving to skip the street video games, too. The franchise may stick with its weapons and hope Irving’s love of basketball finally overwhelms his distaste for the vaccine, however who is aware of who’ll blink first?
In the meantime, there aren’t any such worries with the 11-2 Warriors. Curry is following up an epic season with the makings of one other. His jumper stays pure (and will get even higher) and his dedication to carry the Warriors again among the many contenders stays agency. An argument will be made that Curry remains to be essentially the most troublesome task within the league, placing him in very small firm — one that features Durant.
As soon as upon a time, they have been a harmful duo, taking turns dropping daggers and stealing the soul of no matter group nervously stared throughout the ground from them. Except for accidents — Durant suffered an Achilles tear in 2019 that prevented a 3rd title with Curry — nothing may stifle their reign until both Curry or Durant left city.
That wasn’t taking place with Curry, the home-grown and beloved star, who stayed put and signed a four-year extension with Golden State within the offseason. Durant, although, longed for one thing else, one thing that re-signing with the Warriors couldn’t give him. So he departed — once more, his proper to take action — and attached with Irving. When Harden pressured his manner out of Houston, the Nets had a three-man nucleus that, on paper, appeared simply as robust as Curry-Durant-Klay Thompson.
Talking of Klay: He’s on the mend from a pair of main accidents and anxious to show that he belonged on the NBA’s seventy fifth Anniversary Group. That gasoline ought to solely assist the Warriors elevate themselves among the many greatest within the West … however how a lot better off would they — and Durant — be in the event that they’d remained intact collectively?
No sense enjoying that sport anymore within the rearview mirror. Durant appears blissful the place he’s — he signed a contract extension this summer time — and targeted as common on successful whatever the state of affairs.
In the meantime, Curry couldn’t push the Warriors to the playoffs final season — blame Golden State’s many accidents for a lot of that — but the problem of returning the Warriors to prominence has clearly lit a fuse inside him.
And that’s the coronary heart of this matter: The problem for Durant in Brooklyn is far more durable than the comforts afforded to him at Golden State. So salute him for taking the street with extra harmful curves.
We’ll verify again subsequent spring and summer time to revisit this subject and replace the scorecard. In the meantime, and till then, there’s no mistaking the place Durant’s selection stands at this very minute:
Irving is busy drawing DNPs, whereas Curry is busy drawing applause.
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Shaun Powell has lined the NBA for greater than 25 years. You may e-mail him right here, discover his archive right here and comply with him on Twitter.
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