The amount of pressure on the Brooklyn NetsDate: July 8, 2019
By: Ronny Castaneda
The Brooklyn Nets have been long overshadowed by almost every other team in the league for years. What doesn’t help their situation is the fact that their rivals play in the “Mecca of Basketball.” To be fair, their play has not been the best brand of basketball in the NBA.
Times have changed. The NBA has become a free world for players to pick and choose where and when they want to switch from team to team. Luckily for the Nets, they began to prove themselves just in time. The 2019 free agency class seemed like a dream-team free-for-all, with all-stars and former champions galore.
Brooklyn was a key landing spot for arguable the top duo to land. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were rumored to have wanted to team up and thus they did.
Late in the 2019 season, rumors spurred of Irving wanting to return home and play for his childhood team, which would likely mean that Durant would follow. With enough money to play around with, the Nets signed both Durant and Irving to four-year max contracts, shocking the NBA.
While the borough of Brooklyn rejoiced at the signing of both former champions, the pains that lingered from that dreaded Boston trade were cured. Brooklyn was ahead of the pack, alongside every other championship contender, something they have not been able to do for almost 20 years.
But the atmosphere should not be all sunflowers and happiness in Brooklyn. Yes, the recent free agency period has left the team and fan base with something to smile about, but the new-look Nets have yet to step on the court together.
If there is anything New York based fans are no strangers to, it is having their expectation crushed, year in and year out. Not to mention the pressure that will be on Durant and Irving, as they both hope to start a new chapter of excellence to overshadow their past controversies.
Although this is not the first time his free agency decision ignited controversy, this one sat better with the rest of the NBA (except for fans of the Knicks). Durant’s decision to sign with a 73-9 Warriors team after losing to them in the Western Conference Finals left the world disgusted and made him the ultimate villain of the league. None of it would seem to faze him as he led the Dubs to three NBA Finals appearances, taking home two titles and winning Finals MVP in 2017 and 2018.
Going into this season, Durant knew he would be looking for a big payday as he would plan to opt-out of his contract. With all the teams interested having money to play with, it is interesting that Durant would pick a team that had just put themselves in a position to win in a while.
This signing can make for a beautiful narrative. It was hard for people to believe that Durant would leave a team that was just one-game shy of heading to the finals, let alone going to the team that beat the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Durant will likely miss all of next season with a torn Achilles, but Durant at 75% is still a top player in the league. In Brooklyn, Durant has the chance to eliminate the hate that the league poured out to him. If he can bring Brooklyn to the promise land, his “snake” reputation will be a distant memory, compared to all he can potentially do in Barclays.
The only player with possibly more to prove on the team would be the man who recruited Durant to Nets in the first place, Irving. He may be an idol to some for recruiting Durant, but that should not shadow the reason he has come this far ever since his tenure on the Cavs where he brought the city its first championship in decades.
After having LeBron James return to Cleveland to bring a championship to his home city, Irving was not exactly what you would call a perfect teammate. It was enough for the all-star point guard to finally move on and become the leader of his own team on the Celtics.
In Boston, his locker room attitude did not go over well. After being sidelined all throughout the playoffs in his first year with the team due to injury and experiencing some hardships with the team early on in the 2018-2019 season, Irving was already looking for a new home to start the legacy he wished to have in Boston.
The point guard began blaming almost everyone on the team for their losses and tough stretches. He blamed his younger teammates for not knowing what it took to become a championship team. Irving’s comments and the obvious locker room tension would prompt his departure despite his dream of having his Celtics jersey in the rafters of TD Garden.
With all his previous controversy, there is an immense amount of pressure on Irving to not leave a third franchise with a bad taste. The chemistry shown in Brooklyn last season would prove to be the “X” factor for him, as loyalists of the Nets who are aware of Irving’s past hope it does not disrupt Brooklyn’s locker room.
Fans are hoping that Irving can bring the same type of excitement this upcoming season that D’Angelo Russell brought throughout last season. Russell was seen on several occasions dancing with teammates on the sideline and cheering on his teammates on the floor.
Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is so much hype around this Brooklyn team coming off their surprising sixth seed in the playoffs and now signing two of the best players in the entire league. But it is a lot more than what Durant and Irving have to prove, it is all about working with everything this team has done in the past and making it into something great.
Of course, there is some pressure on the new faces in the locker room, but there is something more that the entire organization should focus on. The Brooklyn Nets hope to make some noise during the 2019-2020 campaign.
Ronny Castaneda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.