Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are set to ink massive deals with the beleaguered Brooklyn Nets that could turn turn them into a bonafide NBA contender.
Both superstars will sign what many assume to be nine-figure contracts with the Nets, a team that held an abysmal 21-61 record just three years ago. (The deal won't be made official until July 6 because of the league's annual moratorium.)
Their arrival in NYC cements one of the greatest team comebacks that the league has ever seen. And a new report published by Bleacher Report offers a detailed look at how the headline-grabbing development unfolded.
According to the sports site, Durant was eager to leave the Golden State Warriors because of behind-the-scenes drama and an ongoing battle for team leadership between Durant and Steph Curry.
Per Bleacher Report:
Durant had grown weary of the perpetual drama in Golden State, even while leading the Warriors to two straight championships. What some found refreshing about the Warriors—their big personalities, their outspokenness on both on- and off-court issues—Durant found distracting. He wanted a team that placed basketball above all else.
And he wanted to escape the draining debate about whether the Warriors were Stephen Curry’s team or his. At times, Durant felt taken for granted as the Warriors worked to reemphasize their pre-Durant “beautiful game” of constant movement—at the expense of Durant’s isolation play.
And according to The Undefeated's NBA writer Marc Spears, who cites a source "close to Durant," four-time NBA scoring champion Durant always felt like he was operating in Curry's shadow:
"While Durant’s shocking move to join the Warriors in 2016 quickly paid dividends for him — two straight championships and two Finals MVP awards — there was always the sense that the 10-time All-Star felt like a distant second fiddle to Stephen Curry."
"Perhaps it would have helped the Warriors’ cause if their fans showed more love and appreciation for Durant’s elite achievements."
Irving, who last played for the Boston Celtics, worked with Durant to ensure they ended up in the same place. Before the moving to the Nets, the pair really considered going to the New York Knicks, continues Bleacher Report.
Initially, Irving and Durant discussed joining forces with the Knicks. Irving, who was raised in New Jersey, liked the idea of playing close to home. Durant, who was launching a media company in New York, liked the potential synergy, as well as the chance to be closer to his family in Maryland.
But that plan quickly lost steam as the Knicks lost their way. New York won just 17 games with a haphazard roster and a collection of underachieving young prospects. The Nets, meanwhile, were exceeding all expectations, eventually winning 42 games and capturing the sixth seed in the East.
Simply put, the Nets had the superior roster, the more proven front office, the better infrastructure to support two superstars. Irving and Durant both recognized it by midseason, according to knowledgeable sources.
Durant and Irving didn't pick the Nets just because of a "superior roster"—there is significantly less pressure there than at the highly-scrutinized Knicks.
And neither Irving nor Durant were eager to wear the “savior” mantle that’s thrust upon every star player, coach or executive who lands at Madison Square Garden, from Stephon Marbury, Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas to Carmelo Anthony, Mike D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh.
It’s different in Brooklyn, where the Nets generally operate below the radar, with less scrutiny and more measured expectations. The stars were impressed by Marks, a San Antonio Spurs disciple who favors a low-key, no-nonsense, egoless management style.
Long story short: It's a great time to be a Nets fan. Here's hoping Durant's Achilles injury heals well enough that he continue to be a dominant player. And even if his NBA comeback doesn't pan out, Durant can always keep making high-end headphones.