CHARLOTTE, NC — After one of the most tumultuous weeks in recent NBA history, an expression that seemed impossible to understand just days ago has appeared on the faces of Brooklyn players and coaches. Nets after a 98-94 victory. on the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night – a smile.
Saturday night’s cheery scene inside the Spectrum Center capped a week in which Nets guard Kyrie Irving first defended his decision to release a film and book featuring anti-Semitic themes and the Nets announced that Steve Nash was the head coach on Tuesday. As the week progressed, the Nets suspended Irving for at least five games after he failed to issue a formal apology for his position at a Thursday afternoon press conference, although ‘Irving continued to apologize late Thursday night. Amid the chaos, the Nets have lost four straight games.
Saturday’s win was Brooklyn’s second in a row. Like many members of the Nets’ traveling squad, star forward Kevin Durant smiled proudly at the postgame podium while noting that this week was going to be “probably the hardest thing we’ve ever faced as a group.” .
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure,” Durant said after the game. “But a lot of guys have been through different things in this league before, and a lot of guys have been through adversity in this league off the pitch. Having to lock down and just focus on the game, I think we all get a little comfort doing that, just playing basketball, creating that camaraderie, that camaraderie with your teammates, I think that might have helped us through.”
While the Nets looked tired on Saturday, it was Durant who helped lead his team back to victory by making several key plays. Durant, who finished with 27 points, was reinserted into the game with 6:30 left in regulation and the Nets down 87-75. From there, Durant took over and helped create space for his teammates as the Nets recovered for another well-deserved win.
“There will be more ups and downs throughout the season, but that’s probably going to be the hardest thing we’ll face as a group,” Durant said. “Knowing that we can get through this and continue to stick together, I think is important.”
Durant was asked if this was the toughest week of his career.
“I’ve had a few weeks – we’ve already fired coaches, guys got injured. It was just a tough week,” Durant said. “But yeah, I’ve been through some tough weeks already. I don’t want to act like it’s an anomaly. There’s a lot of bullshit going on in the NBA. It’s a chaotic league. And we’re together every day is a six-month, seven-month season. Something is going to happen.
“So it’s all about how you bounce back, and I’m glad we were able to bounce back, get two wins. But we have to keep pushing, keep building. That’s the thing.”
After the backlash over Irving and Nash’s exit as head coach, the sense of relief in the Nets locker room was palpable late Saturday night as players and coaches celebrated the victory.
“I just think we rallied around each other,” Durant said. “It’s been a tough week for us. And it’s always good to get back into the game. Once the ball is knocked down, all the bulls — go out the window.
“So I think everyone was just waiting to start playing again, and we also lost three or four games before that, so we just felt some pride and wanted to come here and get some Ws. So it’s good for our character, it’s good for the energy of the team and for fighting through adversity.”
The Nets travel to Dallas to take on the Mavericks on Monday night, looking for their third straight win in a week the group won’t soon forget.
“It was a gritty, grimy, Brooklyn-style fourth quarter,” Nets interim head coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Running 21-7 to end the game – but the guys kept fighting game after game.”