If Kevin Durant remains a Brooklyn Net, he'll open the 2022-23 season against Zion Williamson.
Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported the Nets are set to open their regular season against the New Orleans Pelicans on Oct. 19. The game should also mark Zion Williamson's return to the floor after missing the entire 2021-22 campaign with a foot injury.
Ben Simmons is also slated to make his return after he missed all of last season because of a holdout from the Philadelphia 76ers and a back injury.
There may be no game on the NBA's early slate with more proverbial balls up in the air.
Durant requested a trade in June and has not backed down on his stance. The 12-time All-Star met with Nets governor Joe Tsai earlier this month and demanded head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks be fired if the team wanted Durant to return, sources told Charania. Tsai refused and took to social media to back Nash and Marks.
While the Nets have focused on Durant talks, there is also the possibility Kyrie Irving has played his last game for Brooklyn. The Los Angeles Lakers have been linked to an Irving trade for months, though their lack of available assets has made things difficult. Irving's future with the franchise will likely be impacted, at least in part, by the end result of Durant's trade demand.
As training camp draws closer, it's increasingly likely a disgruntled Durant and Irving will be on the floor for opening night.
The statuses of Simmons and Williamson remain great enigmas, ones that will determine how their respective teams fare next season.
Simmons' shattered confidence on the offensive end was the most glaring aspect of his game that stood out the last time we saw him on an NBA floor. If he was able to get his mental health and body right with a season off, it's likely Simmons will return to All-Star form and rank among the best defenders in basketball.
Williamson landed a max contract extension in New Orleans despite playing only 85 games over his first three NBA seasons. If he stays healthy, the Pelicans will be a clear playoff team that could sneak into the top half of the Western Conference. If the injury issues continue flaring up, Oct. 19 will be the start of another long season in New Orleans.