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NBA News and Notes: A Look at the Nets and Cam’s World

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“The puppet doesn’t know he’s a puppet”. Nets superstar guard Kyrie Irving’s reply to Fox Sports’ Nick Wright tweet claiming the seven-time All-Star would “simply retire” if the Nets were to trade him. Last winter when the Brooklyn Nets sacrificed their fountain of youth talent to acquire superstar combo guard James Harden not only were critics skeptical of the Beard’s fit alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving but also if the lucrative package to drag him out of Houston would be worthwhile long term. We’re just about a week away from the start of NBA training camp. The gamble has yet to be proven that it’s paid off but we’ve seen glimpses of a potential all-time team.

https://youtu.be/bVGL_JjMo3o

Injuries and COVID woes dominated headlines with them all season long as we saw the big three play just 13 games together. James Harden (hamstring) who’s actually known for iron man durability missed three games in last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals and pretty much played on one leg as his hamstring plagued him on and off all season, sidelining him for a total of 23 games.

Kyrie Irving, who quietly had a career year joined the 50-40-90 club this past season and boasted a Nets team to the second seed in the East gruesomely sprained his right ankle in the middle of Game 4. Arguably the best player in the world, Kevin Durant was half a shoe size from eliminating the Milwaukee Bucks by himself in Game 7 on a long two-point perimeter jumper from the right-wing. After his initial game-winning attempt in regulation which thus tied the game to force OT the energy exerted and overall fatigue began to wear on the two-time NBA Finals MVP as he air-balled a three-point attempt with a couple of tenths of a second left in the game. It was definitely one of the biggest postseason what-if shots in recent time and what capped off a 48 point monstrous effort by the Slim Reaper.

Durant had just poured in 49 adding nine rebounds, six assists, a steal, and a block each in Game 5. Durant played every minute in Games 5 & 7. Durant averaged 35 points, 10 rebounds, five assists on 49/35/83 splits with a block and steal each in the series. These were the soon-to-be reigning champs KD faced up against, the fact that he pushed them to the brink in year one post ruptured Achilles was just as impressive as his previous postseason performance.

KD’s masterful playoff run reminded us why he’s arguably the greatest scorer to ever play. But what made the run so godly and lured us to declare him the best player in the game today wasn’t the different array of effortless buckets that we’ve become used to but his overall play. We’ve always glorified Lebron’s ability to enhance his teammates’ play to the max of their abilities and how he’s been able to reach the biggest stage despite the roster or head coach. Durant has never gotten that praise because of the All-Star teammates he’s played with and the way he went about his free agency decision to join a Golden State team that already had the 2015 title to its name and was fresh off of a 73 win season the year prior. At the end of the day, this is still the same player that averaged 30 points against an apex Lebron James in an NBA Finals at 23 years old. Durant’s ability to dominate all facets of the game was on full display vs the Bucks and was something we hadn’t seen from Durant solely but for some silly reason the narrative of being able to “carry” was always the drawing line between him and the best player in the NBA crown. Not an indictment on Durant for never being in a situation where he’s been asked to “carry” such as but I think we all knew that if you could measure the highest level of basketball brilliance a player can play at that Durant is one of the very few historically that can.  

The Nets stayed busy this offseason signing veteran guard and NBA Champion Patty Mills to a two-year deal worth $12 million. Former All-Star veteran big men Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Paul Millsap all inked one-year deals as well. Nets notable swiss army knife guard Bruce Brown will also be returning to Brooklyn after signing a one-year qualifying offer worth $4.7 million. Other notable returning rotation players also feature Nets center Nic Claxton who’ll be looking to lock down the starting center position after D’Andre Jordan fled in free agency and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. Joe Harris had a tough postseason shooting the ball but now with the addition of Patty Mills he’ll be getting plenty if not more clean looks from deep this season. The Nets biggest loss is journeymen wing Jeff Green who they lost to free agency.

The Nets spent their 27th overall pick in this past year’s draft on LSU guard Cameron Thomas. The All-SEC first-team guard averaged an eye-popping 27 points a game during the summer league and showcased his three-level scoring ability. Thomas’ ability to create in the half-court will make the Nets even more dangerous than ever before. A lot of this the Nets saw in their former guard Caris Lavert before including him in the Harden deal. Thomas, who is much more comfortable and polished at a younger age can create scoring opportunities in isolations, pick and roll, and catch and shoot which will give him more than enough chances to light it up off the bench especially with the big three out there attracting so much attention.

Durant, Kai, and the Beard spent only 202 total minutes together in the regular season. Chemistry is no longer the issue and we’ve seen the sacrifices made. The roster seems to be rounded out smoothly and they have the experience and depth to be the title front runner that we all expected. 

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