Relationships matter: How much will a summer of uncertainty and nastiness affect Nets season?

Relationships matter: How much will a summer of uncertainty and nastiness affect Nets season?

Before Kevin Durant and the Nets agreed back on August 23 to “continue their partnership,” Bobby Marks suggested that if KD were forced to return to Brooklyn, Media Day on September 26 would no doubt be difficult:

Can you picture a media day with Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons all in their Nets uniforms getting ready for the first practice? The front office, coaching staff and players would almost have to hold an intervention before they step on the court.

The scenario now seems only a bit far-fetched. Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Nets seemingly have let bygones be bygones, with reports that Durant left that meeting in Los Angeles in an upbeat mood and ample evidence Irving wants a career in New York. Then again, that meeting followed a London meeting with Joe Tsai two weeks earlier in which Durant told Joe Tsai he wanted two other participants in that Los Angeles meeting — Sean Marks and Steve Nash — fired. Not to mention competing leak campaigns.

So, as more than one media pundit has noted, things could still be “wild” as Bobby Marks said. Marc J. Spears of ESPN’s Andscape offers a somewhat optimistic view, believing winning can cure everything. Here’s what he said on Thursday, now only 18 days from Media Day…

“Media Day is gonna be amazing in Brooklyn. You have the hug from KD, Nash, and Sean Marks. Did that hug really mean anything? Are they really good now? Obviously, this is the aftermath of the drama with Kyrie Irving last season. And then there’s Ben Simmons’ return. And I am told that he is expected to be ready for the beginning of the season. Ben Simmons is their third story line and he’s probably bigger than most storylines in the league. So Media Day with the Nets is gonna be amazing, it’s gonna be crazy, but winning cures all ills. If Brooklyn gets off to a great start I think they could go forward and try to win a championship. But if it’s all bad there, oh boy, that New York press is gonna have a field day.”

David Aldridge of The Athletic is not so sanguine. Here’s his comments from a revised look at how each team did in the off-season. He put the Nets at 17th:

With the caveat that no one should be surprised if, at any point during next season, GM Sean Marks or coach Steve Nash get cashiered, or Durant winds up with a new address, for now an uneasy truce has squashed his trade request. Brooklyn can at least begin the season hoping that it can bring it’s disparate (originally autocorrected to “desperate,” which might be more accurate) parts together. It’s hard to see that happening, given the strong personalities involved. We all know KD and Kyrie blaze their own paths, but majority owner Joseph Tsai is no shrinking flower himself. And Tsai basically shut down any notion that the Nets would give Durant away, if at all, for pennies on the dollar. So, I can’t just pretend like the last six weeks didn’t happen, and that there hasn’t been at least some damage to very important internal relationships.

Can Nash coach Durant or Irving hard, knowing one three-game losing streak will likely have him on the hottest of seats? Would the Nets turn on a dime if they did find a team willing to meet their asking price for Durant?

No doubt there is truth in a lot of what both veteran writers had to say. The Nets have done a few things, it would seem, to steady their locker room. They have opted for continuity rather than wholesale roster reinvention. They have brought in players like Markieff Morris who have been a locker room presence at other stops along the NBA way, and TJ Warren who is in Brooklyn to reconstruct a career. In fact, we have heard that Morris signing was recommended by KD. We’ve also heard that the Nets have not ruled out the possibility of new negotiations on an Irving extension. And they have used their social media accounts to praise (and mollify?) their stars.

As we’ve noted, it does not appear that either Durant or Irving has joined teammates at HSS Training Center. Not that that’s a big deal. Perhaps the best way to make things less crazy is for the Nets and their superstars to preempt a Media Day circus by going on the record about everything before September 26. It might also help fans, who have been through a lot this summer and could use some emotional reinforcement. Don’t hold your breath…

Of course, last year’s Media Day was not exactly non-controversial. Irving appeared only on Zoom because under New York’s vaccine mandate and virtually every Nets player was asked his opinion of Kyrie’s position. Then, there was David Letterman’s cameo, part of a larger Durant interview!

Moreover, the larger issue is not so much Media Day but whether the summer of discontent will affect games starting on October 19. At this point, no one is sure how that will work out.

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