Stephen Curry scored 31 points with 11 rebounds in his annual homecoming that ended in an overtime defeat for the Golden State Warriors, losing 120-113 to the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.

Golden State had led by four points in the final minute of regulation, before P.J. Washington hit a jumper, followed by a Dennis Smith Jr layup to tie the game.

Curry missed a tough three-point attempt to win the game at the end of regulation time, and airballed another shot in overtime. The Warriors point guard finished with three-of-13 from beyond the arc, making 10-of-22 from the field.

The Hornets, who were without LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, were rampant in overtime, with Washington finishing the game with 31 points and Jalen McDaniels draining a crucial triple. Gordon Hayward made a strong contribution with 23 points and four assists.

Golden State shot at 29.5 per cent from three-point range, with Klay Thompson battling on one-of-seven shooting from beyond the arc in his 11 points.

Jordan Poole made four-of-11 attempts in his 24 points off the bench for the Warriors, who are 0-2 on the road this season and 3-3 overall.

Clutch Embiid lifts 76ers to back-to-back wins

Joel Embiid scored 25 points but none were better than his tiebreaking three-point shot as the Philadelphia 76ers made it back-to-back wins with a 114-109 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Embiid drained his wide-open three-point shot to put the 76ers up 112-109 with 18.1 seconds remaining in the game as Philadelphia improved to 3-4 after their 1-4 start to the season.

The 76ers center had seven rebounds and four assists, while James Harden contributed 15 points on two-of-13 field shooting with 11 assists, while Tyrese Maxey scored 14 points after posting a career-high 44 on Friday.

Nets woes worsen with Pacers shock

The Brooklyn Nets' defensive woes continued as they fell to a fourth straight loss, going down 125-116 to the Indiana Pacers for whom rookie Bennedict Mathurin scored a career-high 32 points.

The Nets conceded another big score, averaging 124.5 points against during their four-game losing skid, with Kevin Durant contributing 26 points with five rebounds and four blocks.

Kyrie Irving, who has come under fire for appearing to show support to an antisemitic film this week, responded on the court with 35 points including five triples with six assists.

Kyrie Irving is being met with severe backlash, including from owner of the Brooklyn Nets Joe Tsai, after sharing a link on social media to a movie "full of anti-Semitic disinformation".

On Thursday, Irving tweeted out a link to a movie on Amazon Prime called 'Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America' – his tweet remains up as of Saturday - and he also shared the same image to his Instagram story.

The 2018 movie is based on a 2015 book of the same name, and includes troubling assertions.

In a team statement, the Nets said: "The Brooklyn Nets strongly condemn and have no tolerance for the promotion of any form of hate speech. 

"We believe that in these situations, our first action must be open, honest dialogue.

"We thank those, including the ADL [Anti-Defamation League], who have been supportive during this time."

Tsai also released his own statement that he posted on his personal Twitter account.

"I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-semitic disinformation," he said. 

"I want to sit down and make sure he understands this is hurtful to all of us, and as a man of faith, it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity or religion."

He then posted a follow-up tweet saying "this is bigger than basketball".

Irving is yet to comment on the situation, which is sure to dominate the lead-up to the Nets' home game against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving left his side's 129-125 overtime loss against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday with an appreciation for his opposition and MVP favourite Luka Doncic.

Doncic became only the 10th player in the history of the NBA to record his third career 40-point triple-double, finishing with 41 points (14-of-28 shooting) in his 41 minutes while adding 14 assists and 11 rebounds.

The Nets were able to force overtime after Kevin Durant tied the game at 112-112 when he dunked with less than 10 seconds remaining in regulation, and instead of allowing Doncic to attempt the game-winner, they forced it out of his hands resulting in a missed Reggie Bullock three-pointer.

In the overtime period, Doncic was not fazed by the Nets' desperation to restrict his shot attempts, scoring two field goals and providing the assists for all four of the other Mavericks baskets in the extra session.

All of the stars shone brightly in the contest, as Durant had 37 points on 12-of-21 shooting, while Irving finished with 39 points on 14-of-31 shooting, and in his post-game press conference Irving compared the experience to that of a pick-up game at the park.

"It's like being at the park playing five-on-five," he said. "Luka brings his guys, me and [Durant] bring our guys, and you know where most of the offense is going through.

"On the defensive end you just want to take the challenge – a few times I got switched onto Luka and I felt I did a good job… there's only so much you can do, but you just try to make it tough.

"It feels good when you can go back-and-forth, but obviously we just want to come out with the win.

"He's a great player, it's a pleasure always to go against him."

Irving was not finished there, diving into what makes Doncic and the Mavericks such a unique puzzle to solve, saying they have "traits of a great team".

"The first thing we need to discuss is how long he's been playing professional basketball," he said. "I think it's been since he was 14 or 15 years old.

"He's used to seeing so many defenses, so many different roles he has played, and now that he's in the NBA you just see how he plays at an incredible pace.

"He makes great decisions, most of the offense goes through him, he takes his time a lot, and gets to the free throw line. He maximises all of the rules of the game of basketball, and uses them to his advantage.

"All of the rest of the guys around him play their roles really well – they're a good team, they're only getting better, and I'm glad we got to see a team like this.

"Down the line, the continuity they have and the trust, because they've been through certain battles – you can see it. They don't panic. That's just good to see, traits of a great team." 

Nets coach Steve Nash added to the chorus of praise for the 23-year-old Slovenian, saying it does not matter how predictable the Mavericks' offense is going to be if it is Doncic running it.

"He makes others better," he said. "He makes his teammates better, he makes plays for others.

"14 assists, not to mention all the other times he probably gets the 'hockey assist'. He puts an incredible amount of pressure on.

"All they do is [give it to] him over-and-over again in pick-and-roll, get a matchup and make a play. That's a lot of responsibility for him, and he handles it almost every night."

With his on-court interview immediately after the win, Doncic called it "almost impossible" to slow down Irving and Durant, and when asked how he feels about his gaudy stat-line, he said "as long as we win, I'm good".

The result sees the Nets fall to 1-4, while the Mavericks are now 2-2.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash claimed Giannis Antetokounmpo's forearm struck Patty Mills' throat leading to his furious reaction and first-ever ejection from Wednesday's 110-89 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Nash was thrown out of the game with 4:24 remaining in the third quarter with the Nets up 70-66 after a non-call from the officials when Antetokounmpo drove forward on Mills who was floored.

The Nets coach was incensed by the non-call and yelled at the officials leading to a technical foul from Josh Tiven. That only further irritated Nash who had to be restrained by assistant coaches and players as he argued with the officials, leading to his ejection.

"I was just standing up for our guys," Nash told reporters. "I thought Patty took a forearm in the throat from Giannis right in front of the ref.

"I didn’t think that was fair. I don’t think I was overly demonstrative. I was upset that I got a technical."

When asked why Nash got given the technical, he added: "There wasn’t an explanation, it's a lot going on out there. What happened", happened. I said my piece on the court. That's really all there is."

Kevin Durant, who scored 33 points with six rebounds and two blocks, offered his support to Nash.

"You've got to handle yourself differently as a coach but sometimes you just want to go out there and fight for your guys and that’s what I thought he did tonight," Durant told reporters.

Meanwhile, Ben Simmons struggled again with four points on two-of-seven field shooting with none-of-two from the free-throw line, along with four personal fouls. Simmons has nine field goals and 18 personal fouls in four games this season.

Nets teammate Kyrie Irving was overheard at one point in the game demanding Simmons take a shot. Irving would not be drawn into discussing his under-fire teammate's form.

"If we're going to come in and be honest as a team, I'm not going to come in and be critical of what Ben's done right or done wrong every single night," Irving said. "He's a basketball player, he's a professional, he has the skills to be a great professional, he's done it in the past and he hasn't played in two years.

"You guys keep coming here and asking me like 'what about Ben, what about Ben?' he hasn’t played in two years, give him a f***** chance, stay on him. We're here just to give him positive affirmation while he's out there."

The result moved the Nets to 1-3, while the Bucks are 3-0, with Antetokounmpo in dominant form with 43 points, backing up 44 against the Houston Rockets on Saturday for the most productive two-game span in his 10-year NBA career. The Greek forward scored 34 of his 43 points in the second half.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said: "That's vintage Giannis. That's probably about the best. He's had a lot of great performances. That second half he did everything, he was phenomenal… It's hard to put the right words on how good he was in the second half."

Giannis Antetokounmpo went up a gear in the second half while Steve Nash was ejected for the first time as a head coach as the Milwaukee Bucks downed the Brooklyn Nets 110-99 on Wednesday.

Antetokounmpo scored 34 of his 43 points in the second half – 28 of those coming in the paint - as the Bucks put the foot down with a 67-44 after half-time at Fiserv Forum. 

The Greek forward backed up his 44 points against the Houston Rockets on Saturday, meaning his 87 points in their past two games is the most across a two-game span in his 10-year NBA career.

The Nets were leading 70-66 in the third quarter when Nash was ejected after being incensed by a non-call from the officials after Antetokounmpo bumped into Patty Mills.

Kevin Durant scored 33 points on 10-of-23 shooting from the field with six rebounds and five turnovers, while Kyrie Irving added 27 points for the Nets who led by as much as 12 points.

Ben Simmons battled again with four points on two-of-seven field shooting with none-of-two from the stripe, along with four personal fouls. Simmons has nine field goals and 18 personal fouls in four games this season.

The Bucks shot at 56 per cent from the field in the second half, with Antetokounmpo supported well by Bobby Portis with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

LeBron's Lakers' winless start drags on

LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers slumped to an 0-4 start after Nikola Jokic put in a dominant display to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 110-99 victory.

Jokic scored 31 points with 13 rebounds and nine assists for the Nugs, who were far better defensively. The Serbian led both teams outright in points, rebounds and assists for the 85th time in his career, which is the most by a center in NBA history.

James, who fell to an 0-4 start for the second time of his career and first since his 2003-04 rookie season, managed 19 points with seven rebounds and nine assists, while Anthony Davis had 22 points with 14 rebounds. Russell Westbrook was out injured.

The Lakers' NBA-worst three-point struggles continued, albeit with a slightly improved eight-of-30 (27 per cent) from beyond the arc.

Sixers' struggles continue as Trent Jr sparkles

The Philadelphia 76ers' early season struggles continued too, going down 119-109 to the Toronto Raptors, leaving them with a 1-4 record.

The Sixers' record is their fifth 1-4 or worse start through five games. Philadelphia were 1-4 in 2017-18 yet made the playoffs, but missed out on the other three occasions when they were 0-3.

Joel Embiid scored 31 points with five rebounds and Tyrese Maxey impressed with 31 points including four three-pointers. Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr bettered him with five triples, scoring 27 points, while Pascal Siakam added 20 points and 13 assists.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets both have big ambitions but have experienced contrasting fortunes to start the new NBA season.

Milwaukee tasted victory in the opening two games of the season as the Bucks plot their path to regaining the title they won in 2021.

Brooklyn dreamed of reaching such heights when they acquired Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in 2019 before then landing James Harden in a trade in 2020.

But Harden has since departed, Ben Simmons coming the other way in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers last season, and the Nets' current big three have been unable to prevent a 1-2 start.

Durant and Irving both racked up 37 points in their defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, however, and they will look to continue that kind of form to threaten an upset against one of the preseason favourites.

Should the Nets come through what promises to be a compelling encounter in Milwaukee, it may signal better days ahead for a franchise who have as yet not reaped the benefits of their collection of superstar talent.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Milwaukee Bucks – Brook Lopez

Lopez, the former first-round pick of the Nets, is already having a critical defensive impact for the Bucks this season.

He leads the NBA with 3.5 blocked shots per game and has a defensive rating of 94.6 that is bettered only by Antetokounmpo across the Bucks' first two games.

Milwaukee will likely require Lopez to continue his strong start if the Bucks are to contain Durant and Irving.

Brooklyn Nets – Ben Simmons

Simmons has quickly become something of a punchline for the Nets in three games this season.

He fouled out in 23 minutes in the loss to the Grizzlies, marking the second time he has done so this term.

Contributing little on the offensive end, Simmons is averaging 5.7 points per game while an average plus-minus of minus-15 is the worst on the team.

Going forward, Simmons will need to provide much better support to Durant and Irving on both ends of the floor for the Nets to be contenders, and there is no better game in which to start offering that assistance.

KEY BATTLES – Giannis and KD's early blockbuster

There are more granular elements of a game that often prove decisive, but sometimes it just comes down to a battle of two superstars.

That appears likely to be the case here as Antetokounmpo and Durant go head-to-head with both already excelling on the offensive end.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 32.5 points per game compared to Durant's 32.0. The key difference that has led to their two teams' contrasting records is the superior support Antetokounmpo has received, but if both are on song then this promises to be a bewitching contest.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Bucks have won five of their last six against the Nets, though Brooklyn did claim a road win last season, prevailing 126-123 behind a 38-point effort from Irving.

The Memphis Grizzlies duo of Ja Morant and Desmond Bane outdueled Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets in a high-scoring 134-124 win on Monday night.

Both Morant (12-of-22 shooting) and Bane (14-of-21) finished with 38 points, combining to hit 12 of their 17 three-point attempts as the Grizzlies rode a 45-point third quarter to the win. The pair's combined total of 76 points set a new Grizzlies record for most points scored by a duo in a single game.

Morant, the reigning Most Improved Player, is firmly in the mix for MVP this season and he added eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals to his gaudy stat-line.

The Nets led 69-64 at halftime as Durant and Irving were also both on their way to big games, with both scoring 37 points as Durant shot 14-of-20 from the field and Irving was 14-of-24 in an offensive exhibition.

But the Grizzlies' third-quarter explosion was too emphatic, with Bane scoring 19 of his points in the period while the Nets had 28 as a team.

Embattled Nets All-Star Ben Simmons struggled, fouling out for the second time in the Nets' first three games, while also committing five turnovers with his eight assists. 

With the win, the Grizzlies are now 3-1, while the Nets fall to 1-2.

Simons catches fire in Trail Blazers win

Fresh off signing his $100million extension in the offseason, 23-year-old Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons produced his first game-winning performance of the season as his third-quarter explosion led a 135-110 home win against the Denver Nuggets.

The Trail Blazers – who at 4-0 join the 2-0 Milwaukee Bucks as the only two remaining unbeaten teams – largely shut down reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic, holding him to nine points, nine rebounds and nine assists as he battled foul trouble all night.

Damian Lillard top-scored with 31 points on 10-of-16 shooting for the Blazers, adding eight assists and six rebounds, but it was Simons' third quarter that separated the teams.

In just over five-and-a-half minutes, Simons scored 22 of his 29 points, including a stretch where he made six consecutive three-pointers as he helped the Blazers score 80 in the second half. It is the Trail Blazers' first 4-0 start to the season since 1999.

Rockets youngsters hand the Jazz their first loss

Houston Rockets fans received a glimpse into the future in their 114-108 win against the previously undefeated Utah Jazz, with top-three draft picks Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr both delivering strong performances.

Both players shot at least 50 per cent from both the field and long range, and combined to hit all nine of their free throws. 

Green posted 25 points on nine-of-16 shooting, hitting four-of-eight from deep, while rookie Smith had 21 points (six-of-10 shooting, three-of-five from long range), nine rebounds and three blocks.

Vassell flashes star potential for the Spurs

Third-year wing Devin Vassell caught the eye with a starring performance in the San Antonio Spurs' 115-106 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Vassell – the 11th pick from the 2020 draft – has shown significantly more playmaking this season since the departure of Dejounte Murray in a trade to the Atlanta Hawks, and against the Timberwolves he dished off a career-high seven assists.

As well as showing his ability to create for his teammates, the six-foot-six wing with superb defensive skills showcased his all-round game, hitting five-of-10 from three-point range on his way to 22 points, and he also grabbed nine rebounds.

Ben Simmons is "starting to show the player he can be", according to his coach Steve Nash after the Australian played a role in the Brooklyn Nets' win against the Toronto Raptors.

Simmons played over 32 minutes at Barclays Center on Friday, scoring six points and recording 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Kevin Durant (30 points) and Kyrie Irving (27) led the scoring for the Nets in a 109-105 victory, edging out Toronto despite an impressive triple-double from Pascal Siakam (37 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists).

Simmons played his first game in 16 months on Wednesday in defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans and struggled to make an impact, fouling out during his 23-minute appearance.

He was much-improved in Friday's win, though, and Nash expressed his pride for the 26-year-old, saying post-game: "From the jump he was more aggressive - he got in the paint, every time he gets in the paint he causes problems. 

"He's starting to show the player he can be, and I still think he's got a ways to go, so really proud of him. He shook off the first night, and I thought he was much more aggressive in an important game for us."

The player himself revealed Nash has been telling him to "Just attack, just be me," adding: "It's easy to say, but to go and do it, it's tough. But that's on me. Keep pushing myself."

A stunning 49-point outburst from Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant carried his side back from a 16-point first-half deficit to defeat the Houston Rockets 129-122 on Friday.

Morant had 18 points and six assists in the first half, but the rest of the Grizzlies were struggling, falling into a 42-26 hole early in the second quarter before trimming the margin to 70-62 at halftime.

The second pick from the 2021 NBA Draft, Jalen Green, showed why Rockets fans are so excited as he piled up 33 points on 13-of-21 shooting while going four-of-five from long range, but Morant was matching him step-for-step before running away late.

Memphis won the fourth quarter 34-22 as the Rockets ran out of gas, with Morant finishing 17-of-26 from the field, and five-of-six from long range, while adding eight assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal. He had 31 in the second half, and only a missed free throw in the fourth quarter kept him from scoring 50.

In an eye-catching performance, second-year center Alperen Sengun tallied 23 points (nine-of-13 shooting) with 12 rebounds in 27 minutes off the Houston bench.

Beal wins it for the Wizards

The Washington Wizards are now 2-0 after a Bradley Beal game-winner with seven seconds remaining handed his side a 102-100 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago trailed by nine points with less than five minutes to play, but from that point on DeMar DeRozan dropped 11 of his 32 points (11-of-23 shooting), tying things up at 98-98 with a minute remaining after a pair of free throws.

Beal answered back with a layup, and DeRozan leveled the score again with a dunk, before Beal sank the dagger to finish with 19 points (nine-of-14 shooting) and eight assists. DeRozan had a chance to win it with a three-pointer on the buzzer, but could not deliver.

Brown and Tatum carry the Celtics

The combination of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum proved too much for the Miami Heat to overcome, with the duo combining for 57 points in the Boston Celtics' 111-104 triumph.

Tatum finished with 29 points on 10-of-22 shooting, getting to the line and hitting all seven of his free throws, while Brown was more efficient from the field, hitting 12-of-18 shots for 28 points after they scored 35 each in Boston's season opener.

The Heat could not survive in the minutes center Bam Adebayo had to sit down, as the big man posted 19 points (eight-of-11 shooting) with eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a plus/minus of plus 20 in his 35 minutes. Unfortunately for Miami, they were minus 26 in the 12 minutes he was on the bench.

Simmons banks first win as a Net

The Brooklyn Nets won their first game with Ben Simmons as they defeated the Toronto Raptors 109-105 at home.

Simmons was solid without contributing much on the scoreboard, finishing with six points (three-of-five shooting), but he grabbed 10 rebounds, dished eight assists and blocked two shots.

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant carried the scoring load, as Irving top-scored, producing 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting while adding seven assists, while Durant hit eight-of-18 shots for 27 points and six assists.

The New Orleans Pelicans sent a statement to the rest of the league with a 130-108 pounding of the Brooklyn Nets in their opening game of the season on Wednesday night.

Playing away from home, the Pelicans enjoyed a red-hot start, with eight points in the first quarter from Zion Williamson helping to build a 32-14 lead at the first break.

The Nets showed some fight in the second quarter, putting up 36 points in the frame to trim the margin to 58-50 as Kevin Durant had 21 in the first half, but the Pelicans came out of halftime and dropped 40 points in the third period to put the game to bed.

In his first game since May 2021, Williamson looked in tremendous shape, scoring 25 points on 11-of-22 shooting while adding nine rebounds, three assists and four steals. 

He was supported in fine fashion by Brandon Ingram, who top-scored for the Pelicans with 28 points (10-of-17 shooting), seven rebounds and five assists, and C.J. McCollum chipped in 21 points and six assists as well.

For the Nets, Durant showed he is still arguably the best scorer in the league with 32 points on 11-of-21 shooting, and he also tallied four blocks in an impressive two-way performance despite his team's shortcomings.

Box-office Banchero validates top draft selection 

Paolo Banchero was not thought to be an option for the Orlando Magic with the first overall pick until the day of the NBA Draft, but he showed exactly why they took him with a spectacular debut in a 113-109 loss on the road to the Detroit Pistons.

Banchero shattered the Magic record for points by a debuting rookie – previously set at 13 – with 27 on 11-of-18 shooting, and he also grabbed nine rebounds and dished five assists in a complete performance, posting a plus/minus of plus two in his 35 minutes.

It was a great debut for rookie Jaden Ivey as well, who the Pistons selected with the fifth overall pick, as he put up 19 points on eight-of-15 shooting with four assists and three steals.

Ivey complemented last year's top pick Cade Cunningham beautifully, with Cunningham running the show on his way to 18 points (six-of-16 shooting) and 10 assists, while newly acquired Bojan Bogdanovic top-scored for Detroit with 24 points on eight-of-16 shooting after hitting six of his first seven three-point attempts.

Morant lifts the Grizzlies in overtime

Ja Morant had his potential game-winner wiped off the board due to a contentious charging foul, but his Memphis Grizzlies got the job done at home in overtime to defeat the New York Knicks 115-112.

Morant was the game's top-scorer with 34 points on 11-of-24 shooting, and his nine assists was equal with New York's Jalen Brunson for the most in the contest.

Starting in place of the injured Jaren Jackson Jr, Santi Aldama gave a good performance with 18 points (seven-of-14 shooting) and 11 rebounds, while Julius Randle was the Knicks' best player, scoring 24 points (nine-of-16 shooting) with 11 rebounds and six assists.

Mitchell shines in Cavaliers debut despite loss

The Cleveland Cavaliers were treated to a terrific debut from star offseason acquisition Donovan Mitchell, but it was not enough to overcome an early Darius Garland injury in a 108-105 road loss to the Toronto Raptors.

All-Star point guard Garland only played 13 minutes before his night ended with a rough poke to the eye in the second quarter. Taking over some of Garland's point guard responsibilities, Mitchell dished off nine assists as well as leading the game in scoring with 31 on 12-of-21 shooting.

All five Raptors starters scored at least 15 points in classic Toronto fashion, with Pascal Siakam tallying 23 on nine-of-20 shooting with 11 rebounds and four steals, while reigning Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes had 15 points (seven-of-14 shooting) with seven assists and a game-high plus/minus of plus 20 in his 32 minutes.

Kevin Durant's trade request was the sort of "test" the Brooklyn Nets needed to bond and get better, according to Kyrie Irving.

The Nets will begin their 2022-23 season on Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans after a topsy-turvy offseason.

Both Durant and Irving are set to be in the Brooklyn line-up, despite the pair appearing to be on their way out when the 2014 MVP asked for a trade.

A deal with the Nets proved difficult to do, as Durant has four years remaining on his contract, meaning the team asked for a huge price in talks.

It was then reported Durant had returned to the Nets but promised to stay only if head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks were replaced.

Eventually, a statement from Marks said Durant had "agreed to move forward with our partnership" regardless.

That might not seem ideal preparation for the season, but Irving suggested the saga had actually brought the Nets closer.

"When Kev made that request, I feel like we got better," he told Stadium. "Afterwards, not initially. Now, where we are now, I feel like we can honestly say we got better.

"We know the principles that are needed for success, but without going through some tests in the summer time or during the season, we wouldn't be able to be as close and bonded as we are now."

Irving added: "[Durant] is one of the greatest to ever do it, and he wants his chance to win. Give him his request.

"But other than that, I think he believes not only in me but in himself."

Ben Simmons acknowledges that part of being Ben Simmons means he is going to hear plenty of criticism via social media.

The Brooklyn Nets swingman, who has often been on the wrong end of tough criticism, also understands that it is just social media and he can’t let it bother him.

The 26-year-old once again received plenty of jibes after a video of him airballing a shot during an event in a Brooklyn park on Sunday went viral.

It was just another instance of insults directed at the former number one overall pick, but he understands he just has to brush it off.

"It finds me all the time," Simmons told ESPN prior to Wednesday night's preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks. "And it doesn't f---ing stop. Sometimes I'm even sick of it, but then I'm like, 'OK, I'm Ben Simmons, you know? It comes with being Ben Simmons right now'.

"Even the other day there was a clip of me airballing a shot at the park. Meanwhile, like 10 guys airballed multiple shots. So it's like people will find one clip and try to make it that everything - like Ben can't do [this or that].

"Like come on man, you think I'm just airballing every shot? It's not true. But it comes with it, and you got to have tough skin and I realize that, but nah, I can't take everything personally. It's social media."

And there has been plenty of hostility aimed his way over social media in the last 16 months - despite him not playing a game in that time.

In the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals, he was ridiculed mercilessly for passing up a wide-open dunk late in the Philadelphia 76ers’ Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

That was his final game for the Sixers, as he sat out last season due to mental health concerns while being called soft by his critics. He then never suited up for the Nets after being acquired at the trade deadline due to a lingering back injury.

Simmons, though, tells himself the reason he is on the receiving end of so much mockery is because he can still produce at a high level on the court.

"Because people know what I can do, what I'm capable of," Simmons said. "I believe that's what it is. Like if I was somebody that wasn't capable of doing certain things, I don't think people would be on my ass as much.

"And I don't mind it because it kind of motivates me in a way. Obviously, sometimes it's a lot for anybody to deal with that, but I look at it a little bit like a respect thing, in a way."

Three-time NBA All-Star Ben Simmons says he is simply grateful be back on the court after making his long-awaited debut for the Brooklyn Nets in preseason on Monday.

Simmons played 19 minutes in the Nets' 127-108 loss to his former franchise, the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.

The Australian guard scored six points with five assists and four rebounds in his return, after mental health and injury issues meant he did not play at all last season, even after being traded from the 76ers to the Nets in February.

"I'm grateful just to be able to step on that floor," Simmons said. "Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there.

"That's the one thing, I thought I was going to be nervous, but I wasn't nervous. I was excited."

Simmons' return, which was rusty at times, marked 470 days between games for the 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year.

It is also the first time the Nets have fielded Simmons alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, offering excitement for the franchise.

"Ben's playing with a totally different unit than he has in the past, different style," Nets head coach Steve Nash said.

"It's going to be ugly at times, but I thought as the half wore on you definitely started to see glimpses of the potential. The way the ball moved. The way they were hounding the basketball defensively.

"I thought Ben looked pretty good overall and grew into the game through the half."

Simmons admitted that working alongside Durant and Irving would take time but he was excited by the learning process as the Nets build cohesion.

"It was fun messing up because I know how good we can be," Simmons said. "And seeing just different looks and opportunities there with Kevin and Ky and Joe [Harris]. Seeing where they want the ball and just how things are going to work and flow.

"But the only way you learn is to make mistakes so I had a few out there tonight and I can go back and watch film and say I know what I did wrong and how to fix that, so it's all a learning process for me so it's good."

The NBA is back, which means excitement for most fanbases – but anxiety for others.

The new season should ensure a clean slate for everyone, but some situations have been allowed to fester in recent months without the distraction of on-court action.

Now, even with basketball returning, developments around Kevin Durant's future might prove every bit as intriguing to the neutral as anything that happens in the regular season.

And Durant and the Brooklyn Nets are not the only player-team combo in a tricky spot heading into the year...

Everyone at the Lakers

Before considering the wide-ranging implications of Durant's trade request, let's check in on last year's team in crisis.

Plenty of outsiders could have forecast difficulties for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021-22, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis joined in a 'big three' by Russell Westbrook – at this stage in his career, consistent only in using up a huge number of possessions.

Westbrook had averaged a usage rate above 30 per cent in every season between 2014-15 and 2020-21, with his average over the seven seasons (34.6 per cent) only narrowly trailing James Harden's league-leading 34.7 per cent (minimum 500 possessions). A ball-dominant player on often mediocre teams, Westbrook's winning percentage of 59.2 ranked 109th over this period among those to play 100 or more games. Harden (66.2) was a far more respectable 29th.

Although his usage dipped to 27.5 per cent around better players in LA, Westbrook remained every bit as erratic as expected and, unfortunately for the Lakers, played more than 500 more minutes than any team-mate – comfortably ahead of an ageing James and bulkier Davis.

The three superstars started just 21 games together and even then only scraped a winning record at 11-10.

Having missed the playoffs – and even the play-in – in 11th in the West, the Lakers fired coach Frank Vogel, perhaps optimistically hoping he alone was the problem, and brought back each of James, Davis and Westbrook.

Seemingly determined to further upset a team who won the title just two years ago, the Lakers were also linked with a move for Kyrie Irving before settling instead on Patrick Beverley, who might prove only marginally less disruptive.

Westbrook and Beverley have repeatedly clashed in the past, although the new Lakers signing has described his team-mate as "someone I always wanted to play with", praising his "competitive spirit, that fire, that will, that dog, that nastiness, that grit".

New coach Darvin Ham thinks the pair can work together, but the potential for fireworks is considerable even before taking into account James' own "competitive spirit".

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at the Nets

The 2019 free agency moves for Durant and Irving certainly made the Nets relevant. But they haven't yet made them successful. And right now, Brooklyn might be the most explosive environment in the NBA.

Durant missed their first year together with an Achilles injury sustained playing for the Golden State Warriors, yet the Nets have still only won seven playoff games in the past three postseasons – all seven of those wins coming in a short-lived 2020-21 run.

Last season, as they had been in their first season with Durant and Irving, Brooklyn were swept in the first round. It concluded a miserable campaign that was not about to get better in the offseason.

With Irving unvaccinated and so unable to play in New York City until March, he and Durant started only 17 games together in the regular season. The Nets had started the season with their own 'big three', but Harden – much to his frustration – appeared just twice alongside the star pairing before he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Ben Simmons came in the other direction and did not play once.

Far from a happy camp, when Irving then opted in to the final year of his contract in late June, the Nets were vulnerable to a trade request from Durant, which quickly followed.

However, with four years remaining on his own deal and Brooklyn asking for a huge price in trade talks, it was reported Durant had returned to the Nets and promised to stay if head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks were replaced.

Ultimately, Durant "agreed to move forward with our partnership" – as Marks phrased it – regardless, with Nash saying in September his relationship with the superstar was "good".

"I love the guy," added Nash, who understood Durant being "seething" at the end of the season. "Families have issues. We had a moment, and it's behind us. That's what happens."

In theory – especially if Simmons can return to his two-time All-Defensive First Team best – the Nets could have a great team in 2022-23.

Yet based on how this project has gone so far, it is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which Brooklyn endure another desperately disappointing season and are again left attempting to convince Durant to stay.

James Harden at the 76ers

The 76ers moved one miserable superstar in Simmons for another in Harden, which was only enough to take them as far as the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year.

And en route to that unsatisfactory conclusion, team-mate Joel Embiid was not shy in criticising Harden, repeatedly calling on him to be more aggressive while recognising he is no longer "the Houston James Harden".

It was an understandable complaint; Harden attempted only 13.6 field goals per game for the Sixers in the regular season – little more than half the number of shots he was taking in 2018-19 for the Houston Rockets (24.5), when he scored a career-high 36.1 points per game. He was also only making 40.2 per cent of his field goal attempts in Philly, down on every other season in his career.

So far, it is fair to say this has not worked. Doc Rivers, in a training camp clip published by the NBA, told Harden he and Embiid needed to "listen to each other" and acknowledged the partnership needed work as it was "unnatural".

Echoing some of Embiid's complaints, coach Rivers said: "You can't just say you're a facilitator. I need you to be a scorer and a facilitator."

Rivers for now believes it can still be fixed. "When it clicks, James, we're going to be unbeatable," he told a player who, for his part, agreed to a restructured contract that allowed Philly to bolster their roster in the offseason.

But this team – and certainly Embiid – might argue more help would not be required if Harden played in the manner he is capable.

"We've got to establish Joel and you – it's a pecking order," added Rivers. "This ain't a democracy."

Embiid may not believe this is "the Houston James Harden", but the team and Harden himself seemingly do, with the former Rocket announcing: "If my conditioning can be level with my skill set and my IQ and the work that I put in, it's MVP – and I feel like my conditioning is where it needs to be."

Harden needs to start showing that, or this time his team might tire of him, rather than the other way around.

Jaylen Brown at the Celtics

Little has gone to plan for the Boston Celtics since winning Game 3 of the 2022 NBA Finals, as they lost the next three to the Warriors and then saw preparations for a bounce-back season in 2022-23 rocked by a number of key absences.

Boston will begin the year without new signing Danilo Gallinari, who tore his ACL playing for Italy, Robert Williams, who has also undergone knee surgery, and, crucially, coach Ime Udoka.

Udoka had turned around his first season as a head coach spectacularly, with the Celtics tied for ninth in the East at the turn of the year after a 17-19 start before leading the conference the rest of the way (34-12) to take the second seed.

But a year-long suspension for Udoka "for violations of team policies" was announced by the team last month.

And even between the ultimately disappointing postseason and repeatedly disrupted preseason, not everything was rosy, with Boston also impacted by the Durant saga.

When Durant looked to be on the move, reports claimed the Celtics had offered the Nets a package that included Jaylen Brown. That trade did not materialise, of course, but it is difficult to imagine Brown was too impressed.

In recent seasons, Brown has been hugely valuable to the Celtics – not least because he is being paid below his value.

Brown is one of only 11 players who has scored at least 1,400 points at an average of at least 23.5 per game in each of the past two seasons. Of the other 10, four have current or future contracts with an average annual value of more than $50m, another four are being paid over $40m per year, and the final two are bringing in a salary in excess of $30m a season.

Brown's deal, which ranks outside the top 50 contracts in the NBA in both total value and average annual value, earns him $26.6m each year.

And the rules around NBA extensions will prevent Brown being paid on par with his contemporaries unless he makes All-NBA in one of the two seasons remaining on his contract.

In theory, that carrot should encourage Brown to enjoy another big season, but at a franchise as fractured as the Celtics have suddenly become, focus could understandably drift instead towards free agency in 2024.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at the Thunder

Unlike the other teams on this list, the Oklahoma City Thunder do not have the pressure of needing to win now – but that is part of the problem.

OKC moved on their ageing stars, loaded up on draft picks and put together a young core that includes Chet Holmgren, Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. That is all very exciting... or at least it will be.

Rookie Holmgren is down for the year, seemingly making this another season in which the Thunder will lose games and then see what they can do in the draft.

That is no great issue for 20-year-old Holmgren or 19-year-old Giddey, but it does not suit Gilgeous-Alexander, now 24 and entering his fifth year, quite so much – even if he also starts the year injured.

Among the 63 players to score 2,000 or more points across the past two seasons combined, Gilgeous-Alexander ranked 18th for points per game (24.2). He ranked 61st for wins (32).

This is not a case of an average player stat-padding on a bad team; he is simply too good to be in this situation.

And having agreed a five-year extension in August ahead of Holmgren's injury, it appeared Gilgeous-Alexander had unknowingly signed up for more of the same.

He disagrees, insisting: "I know what I signed up for when I signed a five-year extension. I don't think we're going to be losing for much longer. It's not like I signed up to lose."

But lose they will, if they have any sense – and past experience suggests they do.

Without Holmgren, the Thunder are not going to be in any position to seriously compete, which opens up the possibility to pick high in a draft that includes a potentially generational talent in Victor Wembanyama.

At some stage, OKC will be ready, but that is not now, and Gilgeous-Alexander could be forgiven for finding his patience waning.

Kevin Durant said he’s looking forward to another season with the Brooklyn Nets, instead of looking back on a tumultuous offseason that saw the NBA superstar request a trade and reportedly ask for his coach and general manager’s dismissal.

"Can we move on past that at some point?" Durant told reporters following Friday’s practice. "I know it’s an interesting story. I know that it took up most of the offseason and drama sells. I get that, but I didn’t miss any games, I didn’t miss any practices.

"I’m still here, so hopefully we can move past that."

Durant is back for a third season in Brooklyn after eventually rescinding the trade demand that created a firestorm around NBA circles for much of the summer. The 2013-14 league MVP and two-time NBA Finals MVP acknowledged during Monday’s media day that he’s no longer at odds with the organisation after ironing out his differences in a lengthy discussion with team owner Joe Tsai in August.

"I was upset," Durant stated. "And as a family, they understood that I was upset, some of the stuff they agreed with. So we talked about it, and it was over a couple of months, a couple of weeks, towards the end of that where we talked about it.

"We came out and we voiced all our concerns about how we can all be better. And it just worked out from there, and I’m glad I’m here now."

Durant refused to expound on the rumours that he also requested the firings of head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks following the Nets’ disappointing and injury-plagued 2021-22 season.

"There’s a lot of (stuff) that was inaccurate," he said. "But it’s like I don’t want to go through it right now."

Nash also said earlier this week that he didn’t entirely believe the reports that Durant had asked for his ousting.

"I never thought that was 100 per cent," he said. "It’s not black and white like that, so there was a lot of factors. A lot of things behind the scenes. A lot of things that are reported are not 100 per cent accurate. So you get fragmented bits of truth. You get things that are flat out not true. It happens. So I never really got caught up in all that stuff.”

With his differences behind him, Durant said he’s eagerly awaiting the new season and the chance for the Nets to erase the memory of a turbulent 2021-22 campaign that saw the franchise trade disgruntled All-Star James Harden midseason and had Kyrie Irving limited to just 29 games, in large part due to New York City’s vaccination requirement that prevented the star point guard from playing most of the team’s home games.

The Nets also head into 2022-23 with a healthy Ben Simmons, the key player Brooklyn received from the Philadelphia 76ers in the Harden trade. The three-time All-Star has yet to appear in a game with the Nets and missed all of last season due to a lingering feud with his former team and a back injury that later required surgery.

"When you look at the grand scheme of things, we haven’t been healthy at all for two years," Durant said. "Each playoffs we didn’t have major guys, (they) miss minutes. Not just role players, but guys that make a lot of money.

"When you got $50 million dollars on your bench this last playoffs with Joe [Harris] and Ben and then the playoffs before that, I want to see what our team looks like in full, with guys being healthy, with us having a little bit of continuity. So we’ll see what happens."

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