Brooklyn Boro

Nets may have to wait till January for Durant, Nash debut

NBA commissioner leaning toward 2021 season start

September 25, 2020 John Torenli
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“Wait till next year” was a familiar refrain for Brooklyn Dodger fans desperate for a World Series title during the first half of the 20th century.

Brooklyn Nets believers eager to see their squad pursue NBA championship No. 1 are likely going to have to wait until 2021 at the earliest to see Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Steve Nash at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

Speaking on CNN on Tuesday night, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver more than just hinted that the 2020-2021 season’s tentative Dec. 1 start date will almost surely be pushed back to at least Christmas, if not next year.

“I continue to believe that we’re going to be better off getting into January,” Silver said.

That would mean the league would play the entirety of its season in a single year for the first time since the lockout-shortened 1999 campaign, delaying Brooklyn’s most-anticipated season since the franchise went to back-to-back NBA Finals from 2002-03 while based in New Jersey.

“The goal would be to play games in home arenas in front of fans.” Silver said while indicating that the late start date won’t prevent the league from staging a full regular-season slate, something that didn’t happen during this COVID-19-interrupted campaign.

“But there’s still a lot that we need to learn in terms of rapid testing, for example,” Silver added. “Would that be a means of getting fans into our buildings? Will there be other protections?”

After going 35-37, including 5-3 at the league’s bubble site in Orlando, Florida, the Nets got swept out of the playoffs in the opening round by the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors.

But that was without the injured Durant and Irving and also sans the likes of leading scorer and assists man Spencer Dinwiddie and leading rebounder DeAndre Jordan due to positive coronavirus tests.

Having those twin superstars and other key cogs back in place for rookie head coach Nash’s debut season has created a buzz that has Brooklynites clamoring for opening night on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

“I very much hope to be here next year when we have our full cast of guys so we can make a nice push,” said Garrett Temple, who is a free agent this offseason along with fellow Nets guard Joe Harris.

“So it’s gonna be interesting. I’m excited for the challenge.”

Silver, however, is opting to delay the start of next season.

“The goal for us next season is to play a standard season … an 82-game season and playoffs,” he noted while the respective NBA conference finals continued this week.

“And further, the goal would be to play games in home arenas in front of fans, but there’s still a lot that we need to learn.”

The Nets haven’t played in Barclays since March 8, when they edged the Chicago Bulls 110-107 here in Jacque Vaughn’s debut as interim head coach following Brooklyn’s mutual parting of ways with Kenny Atkinson.

Just three days later, the Nets joined the rest of the league in shutting down for nearly four months as COVID forced the cancellation or postponement of sporting events throughout the world.

By the time the Nets met Orlando on July 31 for their first contest of the league’s restart in Florida, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen were Brooklyn’s main returning regulars while the rest of the makeshift roster was filled out by an assortment of subs and replacement players.

Nevertheless, the Nets held firm to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference to clinch a playoff berth for the second straight season, something the team hadn’t achieved since reaching the playoffs during their first three years in Brooklyn from 2012-15.

“I think a lot of guys got a lot of confidence down here,” LeVert said of the bubble experience.

The Nets haven’t played in Brooklyn since Spencer Dinwiddie led them past Chicago here on March 8. Photo: Seth Wenig/AP

Despite the resilience they displayed in Orlando, the Nets have been focused on next year since they knew Durant would miss the entire past season due to a torn Achilles.

And when Irving was limited to only 20 games due to a shoulder impingement which required surgery, the eyes of Nets Nation turned to 2020-21 as the season in which Brooklyn would re-emerge as a beast in the Eastern Conference.

But when and where this push for the borough’s first major pro sports championship since the Dodgers finally prevailed over the Yankees in 1955 will officially begin is still up in the air.

“There is so much uncertainty going forward not only with the Brooklyn Nets but with the NBA season and where it’s going to be, but at the end of the day we’re going to figure it out,” Allen said.

“We showed here that we’re going to figure it out, that we’re going to go out, play for each other and if we can do that next season then we’re going to be fine.”

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