Nets to open season on Dec. 22
NBA also releases draft and free agency dates
Brooklyn fans won’t even have to wait until Christmas to see Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the rest of their beloved Nets back in action and chasing our borough’s first major pro sports championship since 1955.
The NBA announced Tuesday that the 2020-21 season will tip off on Dec. 22, just two months and 10 days after LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA champions at the league’s bubble site in Orlando, Florida.
The arrival of Durant and Irving during the summer of 2019 immediately put Brooklyn on the NBA map as a legitimate contender.
It also had Nets fans dreaming of a title run in 2019-20.
But Durant was forced to miss the entire season while recovering from an Achilles injury and Irving was limited to only 20 games after undergoing shoulder surgery, leaving the Nets with a makeshift roster for the NBA restart after a four-month layoff due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
That won’t be the case next month, when the Nets, already installed as favorites by many oddsmakers to come out of the Eastern Conference for their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2003, will have both of their superstars ready and raring to chase the franchise’s first-ever title.
Add in the likes of Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, the Nets will have a plethora of talent to go along with returning veterans like DeAndre Jordan, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris, if they can get the sharpshooter extraordinaire to sign a deal in free agency.
Brooklyn found out Tuesday that Harris, who could command as much as $12 million per year on the market, can’t be signed as an unrestricted free agent until Nov. 22, two days after negotiations can officially begin and four days after the NBA Draft, which will be held virtually on Nov. 18.
Nets general manager Sean Marks has made it obvious that Brooklyn is eager to have Harris back.
“Priority number one. It’s that simple, yeah. Joe, I think we’ve talked about plenty of times,” Marks said of Harris’ pending free agency back in April.
“We’re obviously very proud of where Joe has come from. And where he is today. And he still continues to get better. [He] still wants to work on his craft. So, yeah, signing him and seeing him with this group will certainly be a priority for us.”
The league also revealed that they and the NBA Players’ Association had reached an agreement in principle to play a 72-game schedule in 2020-21, but no official matchups and dates had been set as of press time.
No matter where or exactly when they hit the hardwood, the Nets will be one of the biggest sports stories in the nation from coast to coast as Durant, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, and Irving, a champion with James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, brought this franchise some instant cache.
Whether they can live up to the hype, or even exceed it by bringing pure sporting joy to the streets of Brooklyn for the first time since the Dodgers beat the Yankees in the ’55 World Series, is still a great unknown.
“We are playing for a championship and we’re going to build accordingly,” Nets first-year head coach Steve Nash said at a virtual town hall last month. “We’re going to frame everything we do in the lens of, ‘Is this a championship characteristic or is this worth championship quality?’”
It will certainly be fun and interesting to watch and find out, especially now that we know exactly when that quest for next year’s Larry O’Brien Trophy begins in earnest.
Nothing But Net: The Nets also announced Tuesday that they are participating in Nike’s NBA Game Growers program for a second consecutive year. The program is described as, “a unique and empowering opportunity for girls 13 years or older in seventh or eighth grade to work alongside the team to develop ideas on how to encourage more girls in their local community to play sports,” according to a team-issued release. Two girls from the New York City area will be selected to develop an idea to grow sports participation for girls, and serve as co-captains of the Nets’ Game Growers team. Once selected, the girls will collaborate and work alongside Nike and the Nets’ Game Growers team to create a plan to implement and test their idea, and ultimately increase their peers’ involvement in sports in New York City. These plans – known as Game Growers Game Plans – will be shared on Nike’s Game Growers website next spring. Interested individuals can visit www.GameGrowers.com to learn more and apply to participate in the program. Applications are currently open and will be accepted until midnight on Dec. 4. Game Growers participants will be selected and notified by Jan. 15. “We are proud to team with Nike again on the Game Growers program, which reaches girls at such a pivotal point in their engagement with sports,” said Mandy Gutmann, Senior Vice President of Communications and Community Relations for BSE Global. “I know firsthand the crucial role that sports can play in developing core life skills such as resilience, teamwork, and confidence, and we hope this program inspires the next generation of female leaders both on and off the court.”
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