NBA

Nets' 2022 hardships have brought us closer together - Durant

By Sports Desk January 01, 2023

Kevin Durant believes the trials and tribulations the Brooklyn Nets went through in 2022 have brought the team closer together.

The Nets finished the calendar year with an 11th straight win, with Durant putting up 23 points and Kyrie Irving 28 in a 123-106 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

It leaves the Nets heading in 2023 second in the Eastern Conference but the past year has been one of ups and downs for the franchise.

Irving endured a turbulent year, missing several games having opted not to get vaccinated against COVID-19, only returning full time when New York changed its protocols for playing.

Later in the year, Irving was also suspended for eight games when he posted on social media about a book and a movie with Antisemitic tropes.

Throw in James Harden forcing a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers and Ben Simmons' arrival the other way, a change in coach from Steve Nash to Jacque Vaughn in November, and Durant himself requesting a trade back in August, the Nets have been at the centre of blockbuster headlines.

But Durant feels the team can now look forward to establishing themselves as a major force.

"It was one of those years you reflect on and you see the turning points in the organisation," Durant said. 

"We've seen different moments that brought us together as a group. You see, at this point now towards the end of the year, you start to see us come together and perform what we've been looking to do these last couple of years, which was a solid team that plays hard every night. 

"So, we went through a lot in this calendar year, but we're looking for bigger and better things in 2023.

"When we came back for this season, the start of the season, there was a lot of talk in the summertime, but for us to bring the group back together and start the year was cool. 

"And then once Jacque became the coach and we started to move forward then, obviously that was a turning point for us. Then we had some stuff that wasn't ideal.

"Guys out the lineup, Kyrie out the lineup, James Harden demanded a trade, there was a lot of stuff that we went through. How we started from an outside perspective, the noise around our team, it's good that we can be about ball going into this new year. We're playing a solid brand right now, so that's the most important thing."

It was a sentiment echoed by Simmons, who is still attempting to hit top form after well documented injury issues.

"A lot of ups and downs," Simmons said. "I don't know. I don't know how to even sum it up. Basketball-wise I think it's been great. 

"Start of the year we had some different expectations, a lot of noise, a lot of different things going on, but I think we had a lot of poise with this season and with all the different things going on so it's been an eventful year."

The preseason uncertainty with the Nets centred on whether Irving would pick up the player option in his contract. When he eventually did so, Durant opted to stay put.

A disappointing start to the season, which followed a first-round sweep to the Boston Celtic's in the 2021-22 playoffs, signalled the end for Nash in November, though.

But Irving credits the arrival of Vaughn as the catalyst for the Nets hitting their stride.

"He gives you an ease. When you come into the locker room nothing's forced, he's not too high or too low," Irving said.

"He's just holding himself to a high standard, exemplifying what a leader should look like. So as our head coach, as our leader, I've been able to learn some things from him.

"And that's just being able to have relationships with everybody and being able to get the best out of everybody. 

"And that's been a lesson for me; I felt like this year was just learning how to get the best out of everybody instead of trying to do it all yourself or trying to overthink the game. 

"We've got good pieces in that locker room, a good coaching staff. The level of play should raise and it should get easier."

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