Media Day for the Nets came and went, and, naturally, all eyes were on resident foundation Kevin Durant. He had a tumultuous offseason that saw him preparing for changes, only to wind up in the same place. And while it was clear — if not from the words he said yesterday, then from his previous actions — that he wished to be someplace, perhaps anyplace, else, he appeared committed to make the current situation work.
For Durant, it was a matter of getting the Nets to subscribe to a winning attitude. In their 2021-22 campaign, he argued, he didn’t quite see them fighting through adversity. And coming off a run which saw them make the Eastern Conference semifinals, he figured they were going then backwards instead of forging ahead. “When I went out with the injury [in mid January], we lost  in a row,” he noted. “And I’m like, we shouldn’t be losing some of these games that we lost, regardless of who’s on the floor. So I was more so worried about how we’re approaching every day as a basketball team. And I felt like we could have fought through a lot of stuff that I felt held us back. Championship teams do that.”
The negative mindset, Durant disclosed, led him to question his place with the Nets. “Winning and losing, I could take all that. I’ve been in the league for a long time. So it’s not more so about just a result. It’s how we get to that point. And I wasn’t feeling how we were getting to that point. I didn’t want it to affect the game so I waited to the offseason to tell people how I felt.” What happened next is history, although he seems to paint it differently vis-à-vis conventional wisdom’s take.
From Durant’s vantage point, his demand to be traded, which turned into an ultimatum for head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks to be let go in order for him to stay, which turned into a commitment from him to play out the responsibilities that come with his contract extension worth $198 million over the next four years, was a natural progression in the face of his value as a 12-time All-Star. “I know I’m that good that you’re just not going to give me away. So that’s one thing I did appreciate about Sean and [Nets owner] Joe [Tsai]. ‘You’re too great for us to give you away.’ Just that easy, that simple. So, I get that. I know who I am.”
How the Nets emerge from the uncertainty that plagued them remains to be seen. On one hand, all the ill will won’t simply disappear overnight. On the other, winning solves many things, and there can be no discounting Durant’s worth on the court. That’s not even considering the best of Kyrie Irving, bent on making the most of a contract year. The East may be loaded, but they have him. Enough said.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.