Durant won two championship rings over three years in Oakland, crowned Finals MVP in both 2017 and 2018. On December 22, he will wear the Nets colors for the first time as he steps on the court with Kyrie Irving, who signed a four-year deal alongside him last year.
The Warriors didn’t maintain their form after making five straight trips to the Finals from 2015 to 2019. Marred by injuries to key players, Golden State put up the league’s worst record at 15-50, not making the trip to the NBA Bubble in Orlando.
After losing both Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors faltered and spun out of control. Now with Curry returning and one of the draft’s top prospects in James Wiseman, Golden State can aim to reclaim the respect the team lost last year.
Unfortunately, Thompson will not return to the floor in the upcoming season. After a long recovery from an ACL tear suffered in the playoffs, the Warriors shooting guard tore his achilles in a pick-up game, the same injury that sidelined Durant three days before Klay picked up his initial knee injury.
Given the severity of both injuries and the impact they have on players in the long term, many worry that these setbacks could bring an early end to Klay’s career.
Durant, who hasn’t played a competitive game since being pulled from Game 5 of the Finals, drew similar concerns, but heading into his debut, the star forward is ready to make a big impression in Brooklyn.
Just a few days after their season opener, the Nets will return to action, making just their tenth appearance on Christmas Day. In the holiday slate, the Nets will play the third of five games, heading up to Boston to take on Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, and the Celtics.
The Nets have faced off against Boston on Christmas twice before. In 2002, the New Jersey Nets welcomed Boston to Continental Airlines Arena, where they thrashed the Celtics 117-81, led by Richard Jefferson’s 22 points as all five Net starters put up double figures.
The Christmas win was easily overshadowed by two postseason series where Boston met a similar fate. En route to consecutive trips to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, the Nets easily pushed past the Celtics.
Ten years later, Boston returned to the tristate area, this time visiting the Nets’ new home in Brooklyn. Paul Pierce, who led all scorers in the 2002 Christmas game, took the court again, this time joined by Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, and Rajon Rondo.
A 19-point game by Rondo paved the way for a big 93-78 Boston win at the newly christened Barclays Center.
Now, with two of the Eastern Conference’s strongest rosters, the Nets and Celtics meet again on Christmas day. While returning to Boston, Irving will once again avoid the jeers of Celtics fans discontented with his lack of success while at the helm.
Since joining the Nets, Kyrie has still not taken on his former team, sitting out of all four matchups due to a few injuries.
The first two games on Brooklyn’s schedule are not easy ones, but the new-look Nets are more than ready to take the next step. Equipped with two superstars and a brand new coaching staff led by Hall of Famer Steve Nash, the Nets are entering a transformative year where they look to bridge the gap between the top contenders for the NBA crown.
“I’m in a fortunate position where I get to coach Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving,” said Nash. “What we built here in a short period of time and how we are going to practice and play I think is exciting. I’m thrilled to be able to coach those guys.”
“I played against Steve for I don’t know how many years,” recalled Nets center DeAndre Jordan. “It kind of makes me feel a little old, but let's just say that Steve’s young. It’s great to have a great basketball mind like that at the helm along with other great coaches.”
The East is heating up, with some of the game’s biggest names moving to the division in the offseason. Russell Westbrook will be keen on making a bang in Washington, Jimmy Butler eyes a return to the finals with the Heat, and the Bucks are just one of many teams to add starpower, with Jrue Holiday joining Giannis Auntentekounpo and Kris Middleton.
Every spot in the standings is up for grabs. After a fantastic end to the 2020-21 campaign, the new season looks to pick up right where the excitement left off in October.