Kevin Durant spoke with Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports about his injury, playing in Game 5 of the NBA Finals and eventually choosing the Brooklyn Nets in free agency.
Mikhail Prokhorov had a vision (a more realistic one than his previous championship banner within 5 years ideology) of what he wanted the Brooklyn Nets to be when he hired Sean Marks back in 2016. Himself, along with Joe Tsai—who owns 49 percent of the Nets, with the option to buy control in two years—provided Marks the resources required in completely altering the trajectory of this franchise.
Before we go any further, you also have to credit Trajan Langdon, who did a great job in using his international relationships and scouting acumen to make the best of less than flattering seedings in the NBA Draft. Likewise, also give credit to Adam Harrington, who served as the director in player development, he’s done a great job aiding the young talent on this roster in their maturation processes.
These men, along with every member of the front office, turned the Nets from a 20-win embarrassment in 2016/17 to legitimate contender in just two years.
Oh, and they did so without owning their first-round draft pick in 2017, which in turn was the first overall pick in that year’s draft. So, yeah, the Nets’ brass deserves recognition.
Marks had graduated from arguably the NBA’s greatest institute; the University of the San Antonio Spurs—with world-renowned professors in R.C. Buford and of course, Gregg Popovich. One of Marks’ first moves was hiring Kenny Atkinson—who served as an assistant coach under Mike Budenholzer during the Hawks’ most impressive string of seasons since the late ’90s—as the team’s new head coach.
In the aftermath of the infamous Billy King trade, and without any sense of direction or identity, the Brooklyn Nets were supposed to be slated for years and years of mediocrity. And in the first two seasons under the Marks regime, there were moves being made that would ultimately benefit the organization long-term but it wasn’t translating to immediate success.
However, in the 2018/19 season, the Nets announced to the world after a slow 8-18 start that they were coming. They finished off the remainder of the season with a 34-22 record and even won the opening game of the first round against the heavily-favored Philadelphia 76ers (ending up losing in 5, but hey, a playoff win is a playoff win); something was brewing in New York and it wasn’t in the historic Madison Square Garden.
The NBA was taking notice, and even more importantly, two certain marquee free agents were as well. There was an infectious culture in Brooklyn, it was a player-friendly regime and members of the roster were selfless and wanted to do what it took to ensure success. Golden State Warriors’ megastar, Kevin Durant, saw this and wanted to partake in the festivities.
In an article that took the Twittersphere by storm, here’s what KD had to say to Chris Haynes:
"“If I was leaving the Warriors, it was always going to be for the Nets,” Durant said. “They got the pieces and a creative front office. I just like what they were building.”"
It’s not just about the brand, the bright lights or the appeal of a historic franchise for Durant; had the framework not already been in place by Marks and company, KD to Brooklyn is a pipe dream.
Durant didn’t just talk about free agency and the deciding factors in his decision, he finally put to rest the controversial opinion that his previous employer, the Golden State Warriors, had pushed him to come back prematurely, causing him to re-injure his aggravated ankle.
"“Hell, no. How can you blame [the Warriors]? Hell, no,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “I heard the Warriors pressured me into getting back. Nobody never said a word to me during rehab as I was coming back. It was only me and [director of sports medicine and performance] Rick [Celebrini] working out every day. Right when the series started, I targeted Game 5. Hell, nah. It just happened. It’s basketball. S— happens. Nobody was responsible for it. It was just the game. We just need to move on from that s— because I’m going to be back playing.”"
Later in the same article, Durant also touched base on his injury and his mindset regarding what form of play he’ll return to.
"“I’ll be back playing at a high level. There’s nothing for me to worry about. I just want to keep getting better. Obviously, I need to get healthy. But just keep improving my game, mastering every part of my game. What I can do now, I feel like I can make it sharper. That’s always been my goal is to strive toward perfection in my craft, and whatever comes with that, I’m cool. It’s the dog days. Just grinding every day. Getting better, getting stronger. It’s a long process.”"
Unfortunately, fans of the team may have to wait until at least next spring—or potentially until the 2020/21 season to watch him in action—but once he returns, the sky is the limit for the Brooklyn Nets.