In less than a day, the Brooklyn Nets transformed themselves from an afterthought to a major NBA conversation piece with three broad strokes.
Defying the odds and the lure of bi-coastal suitors in the Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks, Kevin Durant announced he will sign a max deal with the Nets. But the Nets weren’t finished.
Soon after, both Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan said they were joining KD in Brooklyn.
Even thought Durant will not play next season because of the Achilles tendon injury he suffered during the NBA Finals, his arrival signals a new era for the long moribund franchise and entrenches it as the most compelling team in New York City now that the Knicks have again swung and missed.
Durant’s will receive a four-year deal worth $164 million. That’s less than the five year, $221 million contract he could have signed to stay with the Golden State Warriors, with whom he has played the last three seasons.
Obviously, the Nets are taking a big risk on Durant since there’s no way to accurately determine when he will play again and how close to form he will be. The Nets are essentially awarding Durant a $41 million redshirt season.
Bringing Durant, Irving and Jordan in together also confirms the suspicion that many of these high-level NBA free agents are interested in playing together. While Irving’s arrival was predicted, no one suspected it would come with the bonus prizes of Durant and Jordan.
The Nets finished 42-40 last season and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Philadelphia 76ers. Now the Nets should be considered in the same class as the defending champion Toronto Raptors, Sixers, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference.
While the Nets celebrate, the Knicks are likely in mourning. First they lost the chance to draft Zion Williamson when the Draft Lottery dished out the third overall pick. And now after clearing enough money to sign two free agents to max deals after trading away Kristaps Porzingis and shedding the contracts of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee in January, they are left again at the altar without a credible alternate plan.
“While we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight’s news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through the draft, targeted free agents and continuing to build around our core of young players,” Knicks president Steve Mills said.
Sources told ESPN the Knicks were understandably hesitant to commit $164 to Durant because of his Achilles injury. Durant’s interest was only in maximum contract offers so the Knicks instead signed Julius Randle to a three-year, $63 million deal, gave Bobby Portis two years and $31 million and offered Taj Gibson two years and $20 million.
Irving and Jordan, who completed the 2018-19 season with the Knicks, also received four-year deals. Then before the day was done, the Nets also signed swingman Garrett Temple to a two-year deal and were working on a sign-and-trade deal to send D’Angelo Russell, Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham to the Warriors. Brooklyn is expected to receive draft pick compensation from Golden State.
Out of the blue, the Nets have apparently developed a reputation as one of the teams players want to be a part of. Along with having an exciting young roster, their handling of players has made a big impression with both the players and their agents.
And the Nets may not be done. This sudden enthusiasm for their organization might result in further additions of players anxious to be a part in what they are building.
Until Durant can play, all of the attention will focus on Irving, whose last season with the Celtics ended in the disappointment of a postseason loss to the Bucks. He will join Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris and Rodions Kurucs to form the nucleus of the new team.
The Nets have only one player remaining from their 21-win team in 2015-16. For the first time in a long time they are relevant again. It was a big day for them.