Since the beginning of the NBA season in 2022–23, the Brooklyn Nets have received constant negative press. First, the former No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons, who the Nets acquired in a February trade for James Harden, played incredibly poorly. Simmons scored fewer than ten points in each of the team’s first six games with him, and he has subsequently missed a few games due to a knee ailment. There are still uncertainties over when and if Simmons will revert to his previous All-Star form.
Then there was the most recent incident involving Kyrie Irving. The team suspended him for at least five games for sharing an anti-Semitic video and refusing to retract it despite being offered numerous chances to do so.
And, of course, coach Steve Nash was fired following the team’s 2-5 start. After being hired in 2020, Nash only stayed in Brooklyn for two seasons before leaving. Ime Udoka, the suspended Boston Celtics coach, is reportedly Brooklyn’s top choice to take Nash’s job, even though Udoka isn’t in charge of the Celtics this season due to team policy offenses.
Overall, the Nets have experienced more drama in the last three weeks than most other clubs in their history. And last season wasn’t free of distractions for Brooklyn too, as evidenced by Harden’s compulsion to leave and Irving’s reduction to a part-time player due to his reluctance to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. All that turbulence is terrible for the franchise, mainly when it obscures the play on the court and Kevin Durant’s outstanding season opener.
Durant is one of the best scorers in the legacy of the game. He is a past MVP, a four-time scoring champion, and a former MVP. He is currently scoring the ball at the highest career rate, which is impressive.
Durant averages 31.5 points per game through 10 games while shooting 52% from the field. The only other time he averaged more points per game came in the 2013–14 season when he scored 32 points per game. Additionally, he played in each game for nearly a minute longer than he has this season. Durant is averaging more points (30.4) per 36 minutes than he ever has while continuing to shoot better than his career average of 49 percent.
At this early phase of the season, Durant is leading the league in total points scored, and he hasn’t only been working on the offensive end. Because Brooklyn’s team lacks proper rim protection, Durant has improved his defense, averaging two career blocks per game. Ivica Zubac, Nic Claxton, Bol Bol, and Brook Lopez, call centers, are the only players with more total blocks than Durant at this stage in the season.
Durant is still operating at or around the top of his game at 34. It is terrible that he is a team member where nearly everything other than basketball has received attention. And a group that, despite Durant’s brilliance, doesn’t seem to be a real contender right now. But that might change if Durant keeps up his current level of play and receives some support. Perhaps such assistance comes in the form of Irving focusing once more on the ground or Simmons rediscovering his composure.
Durant can still lead a title team, but he can’t do it alone. Brooklyn may focus more on Durant’s performance as the season continues rather than what is happening off the court and behind the scenes.