Nets to open NBA season vs. Warriors
Brooklyn begins campaign against Durant's former team
Kevin Durant spent most of his first official training session in Brooklyn speaking about how eager he is to get back to where he was before missing all of last season while recovering from a gruesome Achilles injury.
“I’m just looking forward to having some new energy, some fresh energy to play with on this team, especially the younger guys on this team,” said the Brooklyn Nets’ superstar Tuesday at the HSS Training Center in Sunset Park.
“So I just look forward to stepping into this position and this role and I’m excited about taking it on.”
By Wednesday, Durant had to be chomping at the bit to step on the Barclays Center hardwood with his new teammates after the NBA announced that the Nets would kick off the much-anticipated 2020-21 campaign by hosting his former team, the Golden State Warriors, in Downtown Brooklyn on Dec. 22.
Though fans will not be permitted into the arena due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Brooklynites eager to catch their first glimpse of Durant and fellow superstar Kyrie Irving in a Nets uniform together can watch the game on TNT, which will televise the league’s season opener nationally.
Durant spent three of his 13 NBA seasons with the Warriors, but it was in the Bay Area that the former league Most Valuable Player staked his claim as one of the best players in the world.
He won back-to-back titles and Finals MVPs with Golden State in 2017 and 2018 before tearing his Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 Finals against eventual champion Toronto.
Though he was forced to sit out all of last season, which began here in Brooklyn but ended at the NBA’s bubble site in Orlando, Florida, Durant inked a four-year, $164 million deal to bring his championship mettle to the Nets the summer before last.
Now, he’ll face the team he had his career-defining moments with in what the league is clearly deeming one of its two spotlight games on Opening Night.
Irving, who did manage to play in 20 games for the Nets last year before getting shut down with season-ending shoulder surgery, will have a long-awaited reunion game of his own on Christmas Day as Brooklyn visits the Boston Celtics.
The mercurial guard was in Boston for two years following his stint in Cleveland, where he spent his first six NBA seasons and won a championship alongside LeBron James in 2016.
Whether it was clashing heads with management or failing to get along with teammates, Irving wasn’t long for Beantown.
He joined Durant here in Brooklyn in the summer of 2019 and has yet to get an opportunity to play against the Celtics since switching locales.
Putting the Nets in the national spotlight in the league’s first game and then again on Christmas Day proves that Brooklyn is now one of the most intriguing teams in the league.
And also one with great expectations.
“We’re playing for a championship,” Nets rookie head coach Steve Nash has been saying since getting hired in September.
Nash also has a connection with the Warriors as he worked alongside Durant in Golden State as a player-development advisor, building a relationship with the dynamic power forward that doubtlessly helped him land the Brooklyn job.
“I could share with [Kevin] some of the experiences I had, and we developed a bond over the game.” Nash recalled.
“He’s just a human being that I have a lot of love for and a lot of belief in the type of person he is and character he is,” he added. “And as far as a basketball player, he’s historically unique and impact and he’s one of the all-time greats already and he’s still got a chapter to build right here.”
That chapter will begin with Nets vs. Warriors in Brooklyn three weeks from now.
Nothing But Net: Veteran center DeAndre Jordan, the third piece in general manager Sean Marks’ memorable haul during the summer of 2019, is also gearing up for his second season in Brooklyn. Jordan missed the Nets’ return from the NBA’s four-month pause last summer as he tested positive for COVID-19 just before the team traveled down to Florida for the restart. “[My offseason] was a lot longer than other people’s,” he noted. “So, at the beginning, it was a little weird, especially at the height of the virus, being able to work out in safe places other than your home. But I think I stuck with the same workout or routine and regimen that I always do. But like I said, since my offseason was a little longer than other guys, I didn’t want to peak too early in the offseason and burn myself out. I also didn’t want to play catch-up when it was time. So, I feel like myself and my staff that I had around me, we did a pretty good job of spacing everything out, I had ramp-up days and moderate days to where I give my body rest for a certain amount of time. It’s definitely been successful for me.” … Following the Nets-Warriors matchup on Dec. 22, James and the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers will host the L.A. Clippers in the second half of the league’s Opening Night doubleheader on TNT. The Christmas lineup will feature the defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat vs. Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans, the Warriors visiting the Milwaukee Bucks, the Nets vs. Boston, Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks and the Clippers vs. the Denver Nuggets. All of those contests will be televised on either ESPN or ABC.
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