Nets’ non-stop drama overshadows Kevin Durant’s stellar start to 2022-23 NBA season

The Brooklyn Nets have been in the headlines nonstop since the start of the 2022-23 NBA season, and for all the wrong reasons. First, there was the extremely disappointing play of former No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons, who the Nets traded James Harden for in February. Simmons scored in single digits in his first six games with the team, and has since missed the last few games with a knee injury. Questions remain as to when – and if – Simmons will return to his former All-Star self.

Then there was Kyrie Irving’s latest situation, which involved the team suspend him for at least five games after sharing an anti-Semitic video and refusing to apologize, despite having had ample opportunity to do so.

And of course there was the dismissal of coach Steve Nash after the team started 2-5. Nash was hired in 2020 and only lasted two full seasons before his time in Brooklyn ended. Suspended Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka is believed to be Brooklyn’s top target to replace Nash, despite Udoka not coaching the Celtics this season due to violations of team policy.

Overall, the Nets have seen more drama in the past three weeks than most franchises in their years of existence. And it’s not like last season wasn’t distraction-free for Brooklyn either, as was highlighted by Harden forcing his way out of town and Irving being relegated to a part-time player due to his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19. All of this drama is unfortunate for the franchise, particularly because it has overshadowed on-court product and what has been a stellar start to the season for Kevin Durant.

Durant is a former MVP, four-time scoring champion, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest scorers the game has ever seen. So far this season he’s scoring the ball at the highest rate of his entire career, so that’s saying something.

In 10 games, Durant is averaging 31.5 points per performance while shooting 52% from the field. The only other time he averaged more points per game was when he led the league with 32 points per game in the 2013-14 campaign. He also played about a minute more per game that year than he has so far this season. On a 36-minute basis, Durant is averaging more runs (30.4) than he’s ever had while shooting above his career average of 49%.

Durant leads the league in total points scored at this early stage of the season, and his efforts haven’t been limited to offense either. With Brooklyn’s roster lacking true rim protection, Durant stepped up his game in this area, averaging a career-high two blocks per performance. At this point in the season, only four players have more total blocks than Durant: Ivica Zubac, Nic Claxton, Bol Bol and Brook Lopez – all centers.

Games like this have been a common sight of Durant this season:

Plus, there are the usual offensive highlights, like running through Wizards center Daniel Gafford into oblivion and then boxing the jumper:

At 34, Durant still seems to be at or near his peak. That’s why it’s unfortunate that he plays in a team where the focus has been on almost everything. but basketball. And a team that doesn’t seem like a legitimate contender, at least for now, despite Durant’s greatness. That could change though, especially if Durant continues to play as well as he has so far and gets some help. Maybe that help comes in the form of Irving bringing his attention back to the floor or Simmons finally finding his groove.

Durant is still good enough to be the top dog on a title team, but he obviously can’t do it alone. Hopefully, as the season progresses, the focus in Brooklyn will shift back to the floor and everything Durant does there, as opposed to what happens on the floor and behind the scenes.

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