Kevin Durant‘s decision to stay with the Brooklyn Nets could be the dediding factor for them to be NBA Finals contenders next season, Stephen A. Smith said.
The ESPN analyst applauded the Nets for standing their ground to get the franchise in this position:
“First of all, I want to applaud the Brooklyn Nets for finally doing something right as an organization. … Kevin Durant didn’t need to go anywhere, and I was glad they kept his ass right where they did.”
Stephen A. Smith believes Brooklyn Nets will be in Finals next season
Kevin Durant’s trade request in late June before playing a single game of his four-year deal caused a rift in the Nets organization. After KD told owner Joe Tsai to choose him or coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks in August, the rift seemed unbridgeable.
Since rescinding the request, however, Durant has seemed to commit himself back to the organization and be on better terms with his coach.
With that, many are starting to hypothesize Brooklyn’s postseason strides already, including Smith.
“I think the Nets could easily be the team in the Eastern Conference representing the East in the NBA Finals,” Smith said.
Smith has been vocal over the entire Durant saga, voicing mainly disappointment for Durant’s attempt to squeeze out of Brooklyn. After three seasons, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant have only provided a single playoff series victory for the Nets. Fleeing after that failure was not read well by Smith.
“You signed a four-year, $198 million extension, and before you honored one day of it, you’re talking about you wanting to be traded,” Smith said. “Hell, no.”
The decision to stay immediately turned the narrative back for the analyst, who now believes the Brooklyn Nets are championship contenders. His estimation may not be far off, as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving could be hungry enough this season.
After battling injuries and COVID mandates over the last three seasons, the pair has taken a lot of criticism. Using this as fuel next season could prove useful.
Yet, KD and Irving have only played 44 games together. At their highest output, they have looked unstoppable. It is a matter of how often the duo can produce that level of output.
“They handed the franchise over to the two superstars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and that ended up being a disaster,” Smith said.
With so much to say against the Nets’ recent past with their superstar duo, Smith’s pick of the Nets as Eastern Conference finalists is surprising, but plausible. It is still Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.