Neglect every part that bewitched, bothered and bewildered the Nets this season. There was one purpose to tune in each evening to observe then play — properly, not less than 55 days and nights, anyway. Kevin Durant is that purpose.
Nothing else has gone based on plan throughout this three-year chapter. The Nets have been rapidly excused from the bubble in 2020. James Harden pushed his manner right here, arrived, performed properly, grew disenchanted, pushed his manner out, all within the house of 14 months. Kyrie Irving has been damage, he’s been unvaccinated and unavailable. The Nets have been going to win 60 video games this yr. They settled on 44, and wanted a 12-5 scorching streak on the finish to get there.
Via all of it, Durant has been magnificent.
Via all of it, Durant has been the one factor the Nets can depend on, recreation after recreation, evening after evening, disaster after disaster. He was given a novice coach and all he’s executed is assist make Steve Nash’s job simpler for him. He was given a pair of supporting stars in Harden and Irving who have been chronically unreliable, and a 3rd, Ben Simmons, who has but to swimsuit up for the Nets — and simply stored enjoying at an virtually unimaginably excessive stage.
Via all of it, Durant has remained, at age 33, at worst the third or fourth greatest basketball participant on the planet, averaging 29.9/7.4/6.4 and taking pictures .518/.383/.910.
Kevin Durant has performed at an MVP stage for the Nets this season.Jason Szenes
(One man’s listing, for kicks and giggles: 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo; 2. Nikola Jokic; 3. Durant; 4. Joel Embiid. Although I’d vote Jokic for MVP.)
He has a knack for dealing with most issues properly. He could have overstepped the road a couple of weeks in the past placing stress on Mayor Adams to raise the mandate however that was the product of 5 months of pent-up frustration. He will get a mulligan for that. And for his real, considerate feedback concerning the Brooklyn subway taking pictures Tuesday morning.
“It’s devastating to listen to about,” Durant mentioned Tuesday morning, following the Nets’ walk-through in anticipation of their play-in recreation towards the Cavaliers Tuesday evening at Barclays Middle.
“To listen to the sirens out entrance of the follow facility and see a lot commotion occurring exterior, you hope and pray for one of the best for everyone concerned.”
Durant was equally considerate when he talked concerning the MVP race. It’s inarguable that when Durant performed this yr he performed at an MVP-level the entire manner, he merely was derailed for 25-plus video games by a balky knee. He acknowledges that’ll damage his possibilities when the votes are quickly totaled.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie IrvingGetty Pictures
“If I had to decide on, I might go Joel Embiid,” Durant mentioned. “He led the league in scoring, double-doubles, his group gained 50 video games this yr. Numbers have been unbelievable. It’s a terrific yr.
“However you’ll be able to simply shut your eyes and simply decide any one of many guys out of the highest six or seven, and you’ll have a superb MVP this yr. That exhibits how nice our league is correct now and the way proficient our league is from high to backside, however I might go along with Embiid if I had to decide on.”
Amongst these six or seven, after all, is Durant, who continually has shaken off the assorted and varied points which have tried to subvert the Nets’ mission. He’s, in reality, the principle purpose why the Nets nonetheless have a mission.
Kevin Durant shoots the ball. USA TODAY Sports activities
“I see why I’m not in that dialog,” Durant mentioned. “However I’m certain there’s quite a lot of guys within the league that play MVP-caliber basketball for his or her golf equipment. That assist their golf equipment attain heights that they in all probability don’t attain this yr [without them], however relating to the entire league, there’s simply so many nice gamers enjoying proper now, it’s arduous to decide on. However I can actually say, it’s 10 or 12 of us possibly that may be in that dialog.
“That’s fairly cool to see that in our league.”
And comforting for Nets followers who’ve recognized, all yr, that it doesn’t matter what else, there may be at all times No. 7. Not a foul factor to have a participant like Durant in your aspect, and never another person’s.