Brooklyn Nets preview: Can Kevin Durant’s greatness lead team to an NBA title in 2021

By Vincent Frank
Dec 22, 2020; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Golden State Warriors shooting guard Kent Bazemore (26) fights for a loose ball against Brooklyn Nets small forward Kevin Durant (7) and point guard Kyrie Irving (11) during the first quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets seem to be the talk of the Eastern Conference with the 2020-21 NBA season starting. That obviously includes Kevin Durant’s debut with the team and an inexperienced Steve Nash manning the bench.

Brooklyn signed both Durant and Kyrie Irving ahead of the 2019-20 season knowing full well that the former would miss the entire campaign with a torn Achilles he suffered in the previous season’s NBA Finals as a member of the Golden State Warriors.

What followed in the Big Apple was a disappointing and drama-filled season surrounding the enigmatic Kyrie Irving. Thus far heading into the 2020-21 NBA season, that has not changed despite a brilliant opener Tuesday evening.

The venerable Chris Mannix from Sports Illustrated joined Sportsnaut recently to talk about the Kevin Durant dynamic with the Brooklyn Nets and whether he’s 100% ready to show he’s still one of the top NBA players. In doing so, Mannix echoed a sentiment from those close to Durant as he was rehabbing from the above-mentioned Achilles’ injury.

Related: Top 50 NBA players heading into the 2020-’21 season.

Brooklyn Nets season hinges on Kevin Durant

“Kevin Durant, over the past few months, people who have looked at him say he’s all the way back,” Chris Mannix from Sports Illustrated told Sportsnaut. “And watching him in preseason games, he looks like he’s all the way back.”

Mannix was talking about the complexities as it relates to star players returning from serious Achilles’ injuries in the past, primarily focusing on Kobe Bryant. If KD is in pre-injury form, it’s going to be a scary proposition for Eastern Conference rivals with the 2020-21 NBA season getting going on Tuesday.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Nets, check out #WeGoHard rumors, rankings, and news here.

This mimics what Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said recently about his former star and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant.

“I saw the Boston (preseason) game the other night, which was kind of scary for the rest of the league. More than anything, I was thrilled to see Kevin look really exactly the same,” Kerr told reporters this week.

Durant being able to work his way back to 100% from that devastating injury could be a precursor to the Nets contending for an NBA title this season. There’s a lot to like about the roster and the talent within the Brooklyn Nets’ rotation.

Related: Bold predictions for 2020-21 NBA season

Will Kyrie Irving lead to the downfall of the Brooklyn Nets?

Brooklyn Nets news: Kyrie Irving, team fined for superstar's defiance
Jan 31, 2020; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) reacts after scoring against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

However, there’s also a major backdrop to all of this. Kyrie Irving dealt with a drama-filled initial season with the Brooklyn Nets. It led to speculation that he could be more of a problem than a solution after dealing with the same drama in both Cleveland and Boston.

That’s where Steve Nash comes into play as an inexperienced head coach for the Brooklyn Nets. Despite his status as a Hall of Famer, Nash is going to be in for some learning curves. That starts with how he handles Irving, as Chris Mannix pointed out.

“It’s a huge challenge for Steve Nash, who is coming into this role with no experience whatsoever. I mean, Steve Nash did a brief stint as a player development coach in Golden State, where he developed his relationship with Kevin Durant,” Mannix noted. “But he has no relationship prior to this with Kyrie Irving…he’s a guy that’s going to have to come in with lofty expectations.”

There’s certainly a chance that these Brooklyn Nets dominate the landscape in the wide-open Eastern Conference. Kevin Durant returning to form adds another layer to that. However, there’s also a chance things could implode big time.

Related: NBA Power Rankings – Celtics and Warriors ascending, Wolves among the bottom feeders.

Kyrie Irving’s relationship with LeBron James soured in Cleveland before he demanded a trade. A then-inexperienced head coach in Tyronn Lue failed to handle it in a great manner. How will Irving do working with another alpha in Kevin Durant while learning from a coach in Nash without any experience?

It’s a major backdrop for the Brooklyn Nets as they start the 2020-21 NBA season.