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Stein: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving Knew Nets Would Bend More to Their Will Than Knicks

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVAugust 15, 2022

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

When the Brooklyn Nets landed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency three years ago, many pointed to the culture of competence as the reason they chose the Nets over the New York Knicks.

It turns out that's not the case.

NBA insider Marc Stein reported Durant and Irving chose the Nets because they would be "willing to bend to their will far more than James Dolan-owned New York would."

Tension between the organization and the Durant-Irving duo apparently exists because the Nets have been less willing than expected to bend to the will of their two All-Stars.

"Durant and Irving did not come to Brooklyn because they were impressed by the culture Marks and [Kenny] Atkinson built," Stein wrote. "They did not choose the Nets to be part of a program. They chose the Nets to be the program."

If the Nets' culture of the last three seasons is what Durant and Irving wanted to build, it's hard to blame the organization for wanting a change. The 2019-20 season was essentially a redshirt for all parties given Durant's recovery from an Achilles tear, but the last two years have largely been a mess.

The Nets pushed all their chips to the table during the 2020-21 campaign and traded for James Harden, only to watch their playoff hopes go down the drain thanks to injuries to Irving and Harden. While it predated the playoff collapse, the Nets also watched Irving step away from the team for personal reasons on dates that happened to coincide with his sister's birthday.

Even all of that could have been forgiven if it weren't for what transpired all last season. Irving's decision to not undergo COVID-19 vaccination was arguably the most damaging in franchise history. It led to him playing in only 29 regular-season games, helped embolden Harden to request a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers and further sullied the reputation of the already-polarizing Irving.

As the Nets suffered a first-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics, it was clear something had to change. From Brooklyn's perspective, it's clearly the amount of power given to Irving and Durant.

The team made it abundantly clear it had no interest in giving Irving a long-term contract extension, and now the Nets are playing hardball amid Durant's trade request. While it's likely the Nets will eventually part ways with their two stars, Brooklyn's new culture may be the strongest pushback yet on the so-called "player empowerment era."

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