Kit Shepard | June 30th, 2019
Wow. It happened. For the vast majority of the past year, it seemed a certainty that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving would be joining the New York Knicks, but the Brooklyn Nets have swooped in from nowhere in what could become the most significant moment for the franchise since the NBA-ABA merger of 1976.
In a vacuum, the decision to acquire Irving, and discard D’Angelo Russell in the process, is a questionable one, particularly after the chaos amongst the Boston Celtics last season. However, Kyrie is probably worth the risk if KD is coming with him.
A quick aside: Joining Durant and Irving in Brooklyn will be DeAndre Jordan, who will not only provide the pair with a familiar face in the locker room, but also be a very handy back-up to young center Jarrett Allen. He bolsters the Nets’ defense in the paint and rebounding, two areas where they were found wanting in the playoffs last season.
But back to Durant. With the 30-year-old set to miss all of next season, Nets fans have a year to speculate and fantasize about how Durant will look in their uniform on the court, the different crowd it will bring to the Barclays Center and how he will transform them into major contenders (provided he is 80-90% of the player he was before his injury) but for now, it’s time to appreciate the seismic power shift that has just occurred in New York.
Only the Los Angeles Lakers and Celtics can rival the Knicks for prestige as an NBA franchise. Even though they have had little success since the 1970s, and even though they are perhaps the worst-run organization in the league, New York has kept Brooklyn in its shadow due to the Knicks’ reputation alone.
That has changed tonight. One of the most sought-after and talked-about free agents of the decade was offered everything by the Knicks, who would surely have attempted to win him with all their history and traditional status. Durant has considered the Knicks, rejected them, and not only has he chosen New York’s other franchise, he will be taking a fellow all-star with him.
Granted, the Knicks could swing an eleventh-hour deal for Kawhi Leonard (although this appears nigh on impossible) and return to relevancy but this is humiliating for them. They traded Kristaps Porzingis for cap space to supposedly make way for superstars ahead of the biggest free agency since 2010. Brooklyn did the same by trading Allen Crabbe nearly a month ago, setting up a direct battle between the two teams from New York City. As it stands, the Knicks missed, and the Nets hit. Twice.
All the credit must go to the Brooklyn front office, coaching staff, and everyone else that is involved behind the scenes. They have dragged a franchise that was a laughing stock to respectability. Now, though it may just be temporary, they have done the impossible; usurp the Knicks’ reputation as the team of the Big Apple.
The arrivals of Kyrie, KD, and Jordan did not happen by accident. It was the result of years of gradual rebuilding and progression, as the Nets slowly dragged themselves away from the abyss. The work of GM Sean Marks and the rest of the Nets front office cannot be lauded enough.
The Nets have long been one of the NBA’s least glamorous franchises. They have rarely had a realistic shot at a championship. They became a laughing stock after the 2013 Celtics trade. Above all, they have constantly being labeled substantially inferior to the Knicks, no matter what James Dolan did. At last, the long-suffering Nets supporters have been rewarded in the most handsome fashion.
In New York City, the Knicks remain the stuff of legend. Whatever the Durant and Irving achieve over the next few years, the teams of Willis Reed and Walt Frazier will take some topping. But for those viewing the city from the outside, there is no doubt that the Nets are now the number one team in town.
The Nets’ success today did not happen by accident. It was the result of years of gradual rebuilding and progression, as the Nets slowly dragged themselves away from the abyss. Moves such as appointing Kenny Atkinson, developing a phenomenal medical staff and, ironically, trading for Russell are why they are now in an incredible position, even if nobody was taking notice at the time.
Brooklyn is not being ignored now.
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