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Sport Kevin Durant is why Nets will be title contenders next season

07:25  22 june  2021
07:25  22 june  2021 Source:   sports.yahoo.com

How the Nets were built: Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving transformed Brooklyn roster in two years

  How the Nets were built: Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving transformed Brooklyn roster in two years The Nets have come a long way in two years. Their transformation to NBA title contender began during the 2019 offseason and culminated with this year's James Harden and Blake Griffin acquisitions.While Brooklyn was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the 76ers, it was clear that they were an ascending team. And in time, their young talent could make them a future contender in the East.

Authoring miracles had seemingly turned into Kevin Durant’s occupation over the last couple weeks, but when his oversized feet were tapping the 3-point line in the closing moments of regulation Saturday night, it would be unfair to expect more.

Durant had nothing left to give in overtime, but he drove home a necessary point even in defeat, the biggest point for optimism even in the face of heartbreak.

The biggest health risk on the Brooklyn Nets was the last man standing, only sitting for a total of eight minutes in the last three games against the Milwaukee Bucks and looking every bit like the best player on Earth — so much so, Giannis Antetokounmpo stated it twice in the last week.

Kevin Durant and the Nets Falter With a Single-Star Lineup

  Kevin Durant and the Nets Falter With a Single-Star Lineup Brooklyn looked lost after Kyrie Irving went down in the second quarter of Game 4, helping Milwaukee coast to a series-evening win. View the original article to see embedded media.Well, if a bizarre, low-scoring Game 3 served as the springboard to catapult the Bucks back into this Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Nets, one key sequence in Game 4 might have pushed Milwaukee from being the underdog to the favorite in Sunday afternoon’s matchup.

The thought of the moment is simple: If Durant’s tippy toes were behind the line, the hobbling Nets would be the likely favorite to win the title this season. With no clear-cut juggernaut, the tie goes to the team with the best player. That’s Durant.

If James Harden was healthier or Kyrie Irving hadn’t twisted his ankle earlier in the series, the Nets would likely be hosting the East finals, but perhaps Durant wouldn’t have two 40-plus-point masterpieces to his ledger.

Kevin Durant holding a basketball: Kevin Durant nearly willed the hobbled Nets into the Eastern Conference finals. (Elsa/Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo! Sports Kevin Durant nearly willed the hobbled Nets into the Eastern Conference finals. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Irving gets hurt; that’s part of his story so any team-building exercise must include the possibility or the likelihood he’ll be missing time. And this season, he was given the leeway to take time away from the team for a stretch for personal reasons.

Is This the End For the Nets?

  Is This the End For the Nets? The loss of Kyrie Irving and James Harden might be too impossible to overcome for Kevin Durant and Brooklyn. View the original article to see embedded media.Welcome to the Morning Shootaround, where every weekday you’ll get a fresh, topical column from one of SI.com’s NBA writers: Howard Beck on Mondays, Chris Mannix on Tuesdays, Michael Pina on Wednesdays, Chris Herring on Thursdays and Rohan Nadkarni on Fridays.

Harden’s case is trickier because he’s been far more durable than Irving historically. His hamstring injury that resurfaced in the playoffs ailed him through the season, and possibly could’ve stemmed from being out of shape to start the season when he acted up to get the Houston Rockets to trade him.

He’ll be 32 in August, and although that’s nowhere close to ancient, it bears watching for the Nets moving forward.

What Sean Marks, Steve Nash must address this offseason

It’s one of a few issues general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash will have to address between now and when this team marches back into the playoffs next season, but they’re still very much in the championship conversation.

And the number one reason is Kevin Durant, standing tall and healthy two years after his Achilles injury. He played half of the schedule, largely due to a conservative approach with his recovery. It’ll be hard to say if that will be the case next season, but considering he’ll be going to the Olympics, it could be another slow ramp-up for him come training camp.

2021 NBA Playoffs: Nets vs. Bucks odds, line, picks, Game 6 predictions from model on 100-66 roll

  2021 NBA Playoffs: Nets vs. Bucks odds, line, picks, Game 6 predictions from model on 100-66 roll SportsLine's projection model simulated Bucks vs. Nets 10,000 timesDamian Lillard and the Blazers are making a run toward the West's fifth seed.

Marks said they’ll have a conversation with Durant about the Olympics, but they generally seem supportive.

“If his body feels right, and if he's up for the task, you know, what a great opportunity to go play alongside a lot of his close friends and go and have a very, very unique experience,” Marks said Monday at the Nets' season-ending news conference.

Nash’s inexperience on the sideline showed a couple times this playoffs, and it’s to be expected. Keeping a timeout in his pocket in overtime instead of giving a weary Durant a moment to catch his breath and his legs could haunt him all summer.

“It's not that dissimilar to being a player, you know, we're gonna look back on the year and things that we did,” Nash said. “I like that part of the process. I like you know, trying to be as inquisitive and seeking as much kind of information or clarity as possible to make decisions.”

Steve Nash standing in front of a piano: Nets head coach Steve Nash's inexperience showed during the Eastern Conference semifinals vs. the Bucks. (Steven Ryan/Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo! Sports Nets head coach Steve Nash's inexperience showed during the Eastern Conference semifinals vs. the Bucks. (Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

It’s funny to point to karma and say it’s the basketball gods who prevented the quick grits Nets from winning it all in their first shot, but there were real basketball reasons, like lack of depth up front and the curious case of Joe Harris forgetting he’s one of the best shooters in the world. After Game 2, Harris was 7-for-31 from 3 and he was hard on himself for missing so many wide-open shots. The Nets sacrificed the depth they’d built in order to get Harden, and lost Spencer Dinwiddie to a partial ACL tear early in the season, so they were performing with no margin for error.

2021 NBA Playoffs: Nets vs. Bucks odds, line, picks, Game 7 predictions from model on 100-66 roll

  2021 NBA Playoffs: Nets vs. Bucks odds, line, picks, Game 7 predictions from model on 100-66 roll SportsLine's projection model simulated Bucks vs. Nets 10,000 timesDamian Lillard and the Blazers are making a run toward the West's fifth seed.

Then, errors happened. Harris couldn’t shoot, Harden was playing on one leg and they were heavily reliant on Jeff Green and Blake Griffin to give production above what should be expected at this point in their careers.

“Yeah, I think we have to be careful looking at what have you done for me lately,” Marks said. “Joe has been a stronghold here for the entire time I've been here and I've watched him grow, we've watched him develop, you know, he's a huge part of this culture and driving it.”

Nets could be refuge for veterans in 2021-22 NBA season

Harris is one of the eight players under contract next season, and with so much cap space devoted to Durant, Irving and Harden, they’ll have to make shrewd decisions in free agency to replenish the roster.

Of course, veterans who wind up being bought out will look to the Nets for refuge. Griffin was a shining example, going from looking ill-fitting on a rebuilding Pistons roster to fitting right in with the ambitious Nets.

Other free agents or free-agents-to-be will take note of that experience.

Blake Griffin looked like he was near the end of his career in Detroit. But in Brooklyn, he proved he still had a lot left in the tank. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger) © Provided by Yahoo! Sports Blake Griffin looked like he was near the end of his career in Detroit. But in Brooklyn, he proved he still had a lot left in the tank. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

“I would love to say, the continuity of our group, bring back the whole group, that'll be great. Let's go and see if we can stay healthy and go for it again,” Marks said. “But I just also know that's unrealistic at this juncture.”

Bucks fend off Kevin Durant, Nets in thrilling OT battle to reach Eastern Conference finals

  Bucks fend off Kevin Durant, Nets in thrilling OT battle to reach Eastern Conference finals Kevin Durant did everything in his power to lead the Brooklyn Nets out of Game 7 and into the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks survived a thrilling overtime battle with the Nets 115-111 at the Barclays Center to reach their second conference finals in three years. The Bucks, after pushing ahead slightly in the final minutes, had a chance to make it a two-possession game with less than 10 seconds left in regulation. The Nets, though, forced a shot clock violation out of an inbounds play after trapping Brook Lopez in the corner to reclaim the ball down just two points. "That's me. I gotta help him better.

Due to the jagged nature of this season and the Nets hardly seeing their grand plan come to fruition, they won’t be operating from a full position of knowledge.

But it’ll be one of strength, that’s the advantage of having the best player in the game, motivated and still in his prime.

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Kevin Durant Responds To Report Claiming His “Genuine Goal” With Brooklyn Nets .
Kevin Durant appears to have some free time this Friday, as the former MVP just called out ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan. During the latest episode of “The Bill Simmons Podcast,” MacMullan discussed Durant’s goals with the Brooklyn Nets. She claims Durant wants to win at least three championships with the franchise before his time […] The post Kevin Durant Responds To Report Claiming His “Genuine Goal” With Brooklyn Nets appeared first on The Spun.

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