It was worth that wait! Eighteen months after Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving agreed to sign with the Nets, the two took the court Tuesday night and wowed everyone watching.
The Nets, led by Kev and Ky —as their teammates call them, didn’t take their foot off the gas pedal all that much in their season-opener, smothering the Warriors 125-96 at an empty Barclays Center. And it wasn’t that close. Brooklyn made a strong statement that it’s a new era of Nets basketball and the team is here to compete. It was all Nets.
Following a 40 point quarter, which is the most points the franchise has ever tallied in a season opener, Brooklyn closed the first half with a dominant 18 point lead, led by the Nets superstar duo combining for 36 of their 63 first half points.
To put it in perspective, the Nets had just three 18+ halftime leads all of last season. While piling 63 first half points, it came at an efficient level: 48.9 percent overall and 45.0 percent from deep. Despite the offensive onslaught, the Nets did turn over the ball 13 times in the first half.
Following a productive third quarter, outscoring Golden State 36-26, the game was a wrap with the Nets heading into the final 12 minutes of play with a 28-point lead, which mean’t Kev and Ky’s night was over.
Irving put on another stellar Nets season-opener performance, booking a team-high 26 points, four rebounds, and four assists in 25 minutes of play. The New Jersey native shot 10-of-16 overall and 4-of-7 from deep.
Durant showcased that he’s back. While sitting out the entirety of the fourth quarter, the Nets superstar finished with 22 points, five rebounds, and three assists in 25 minutes of play – shooting 7-of-16 overall and 1-of-2 from three.
Outside of the superstar duo, Caris LeVert thrived (once again) as the team’s second unit leader, finishing with 20 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block in 25 minutes of play in 25 minutes of play. A total of four Nets finished the season-opener in double-figures.
With the win, Steve Nash books his first win as the Nets head coach while the franchise snaps a seven-game season-opener losing skid.
Oh yes, Steve Kerr, KD is back!
Kerr and the Golden State Warriors know better than anyone what a healthy Durant looks like on the NBA hardwood. In fact, Kerr couldn’t tell a difference from when he last played with the Warriors to how he played in the Nets’ final preseason game against the Boston Celtics.
“I saw the Boston game the other night which was kinda scary for the rest of the league,” Kerr said Monday. “… I couldn’t tell one difference between seeing him 18 months ago to seeing him the other night.”
Overall, it is all love between Golden State and the Nets superstar.
It’s been 561 days since Kevin Durant played an official game in the NBA and 325 for Kyrie Irving. But who’s counting?
The Film Room
There were many takeaways to be had in Brooklyn’s regular season opener––Kyrie doing… ridiculous things, KD’s dexterity, Joe Harris’ continued comfortability (is that a word?) next to two superstar profiles. But an under-the-radar thing to appreciate was Caris LeVert’s commitment to defense. For starters, he took on the Stephen Curry responsibility head-on. Not a fear in the world.
Watch here for his non-stop activity. After Jeff Green gets caught up on a Juan Toscano-Anderson screen, Caris LeVert does a prolific job tagging BOTH James Wiseman rolling to the basket AND Stephen Curry on the drive. You typically see this type of legwork done by a big man––think Jarrett Allen.
But Caris? No problem. He bats the ball out of Curry’s hands, which produces a big-time slam from Jeff Green on the other end (get used to those).
This one also stuck one: One of the big wish-list items for the season was to perhaps see Kyrie Irving used in an off-ball role more. In his first Brooklyn season, Irving sniped 45.9 percent of his catch-and-shoot looks, but only took 1.9 per game––far less than the likes of, say, Bradley Beal (4.4 per game on a horrific Wizards team), Kyle Lowry (3.6), and Kemba Walker (2.6). As such a lights-out marksman, it’d be ideal to get him more easy, spoonfed looks.
Well, consider this a welcome sign. Here, in the first clip of this video from the Nets official Twitter account, the Nets run him off a weak-side stagger screen, which gives Irving the mismatch with Eric Paschall. The second-year Warrior is as good as a cooked Christmas ham, as Irving busts out a couple crossovers and the pull-up midrange “J.”
The NBA pumped crowd sound into the empty arena with ooh’s and aah’s and other sounds of the season filling the void. Then, in a perfect coda, as the game came to an end with a Nets win, you could hear a familiar chant, “Brooook-lyn, Brooook-lyn.”
Season-opener televised in China
The Nets season-opener was televised in China, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.
“[Mark] Tatum also said the NBA’s season-opener doubleheader Tuesday night would be shown in China on Tencent, a league streaming partner.”
In addition to both games being streamed on Tencent, the game was aired on CCTV (China Central Television) 5, the ESPN of China. The league has contracts with both CCTV and Tencent, but after the controversy over Daryl Morey’s “Free Hong Kong” tweet, CCTV shut off all NBA games until the last two games of the NBA Finals. Back then, the future of games on CCTV-5 was uncertain.
Then on Tuesday came news that CCTV-5 would once again air regular season games. The decision means hundreds of millions of dollars for the cash-strapped league.
Cheese is back – Jeremiah Martin is gone
Chris Chiozza is back in a Brooklyn Nets uniform after signing another two-way contract with the organization. The fan favorite was waived on Friday, but it now appears the Nets and Chiozza had mapped out the plan for his future.
After he cleared waivers on Monday, Chiozza became a free agent. Then, on Tuesday, the Nets opened a slot by cutting two-way player Jeremiah Martin, who like Chiozza, is a point guard.
By waiting till Tuesday, the first day of regular season, to waive Martin, the Nets did the Memphis product a favor. Any player who’s on a team roster at any time in the regular season automatically gets an extra year of service. That matters. If Martin signs a veterans minimum deal this year, that extra year of service will mean $175,000 added to his salary.
He apparently also received a $50,000 guarantee earlier in the month
The Nets will be playing on Christmas Day for the first time since 2013. The team will travel to TD Garden to play the Boston Celtics in another Irving return. The last time these two teams played each other was Friday when Brooklyn defeated Boston 113-89 in their final preseason game.
The Christmas Day matchup tips off at 5:00 PM.