Nets at Kevin Durant crossroads with Kyrie Irving pairing over


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Seventy-four games. 

It doesn’t seem real. It doesn’t seem possible. All the clamor, all the noise, all the drama, all the New-York-is-OUR-town-now rhetoric … and the Nets wound up with 74 games worth of the Kevin Durant/Kyrie Irving partnership. Seventy-four games. 

It’s kind of like learning that the original run of “The Honeymooners” lasted for only 39 episodes. Of course, “The Honeymooners” provided countless hours of happiness and laughter across those 39 episodes, those 19 ½ hours of brilliant TV. Ralph and Norton brought nothing but honor and good humor to the borough of Brooklyn. 

KD & KY? 

Nothing but ill feeling. Nothing but rancor. Nothing but an abundance of hope and a scarcity of actually memorable basketball. Seventy-four games. Seven postseason wins. One playoff-series victories. And acres and acres of off-court slapstick that has somehow made the clown-shoes the Nets have worn with rare exception since the day they were founded in 1967 seem even redder, even bigger, and even floppier than before. 

It’s almost hard to be this inept. 

But, then that’s the Nets. Irving goes now, and in addition to the hilarity of getting a couple of draft picks — the prize of which won’t be enjoyed until two presidential election cycles from now — there is the poignancy of the return of Spencer Dinwiddie. 

Kevin Durant, left, and Kyrie Irving played just 74 games together with the Nets.
Getty Images

Once upon a time, not so long ago, Dinwiddie was one of the core Nets around whom GM Sean Marks’ original blueprints were featured — likeable, hard-working and young talents, coached by Kenny Atkinson, who gave the 76ers quite a scare in the 2019 playoffs and seemed to provide genuine hope that Marks would wind up delivering what he’d promised: a full and complete rebuild focusing on character and infrastructure. 

For a while, the Nets were really a feel-good story. 

But then a most amazing thing fell into Marks’ lap. Kevin Durant wanted to come to Brooklyn. And though Durant was recovering from a blown-out Achilles he was — and is — the kind of player who makes you blow up beautifully built blueprints. He would come to Brooklyn and not Manhattan. Who would say no to that? 

Well … Marks probably would, given the gift of hindsight. Because getting Durant also meant signing Irving, a quintessential Faustian bargain that even in real time felt ominous. Later, the two of them would assume bonus titles as Marks’ volunteer deputies and a ceaseless series of stupidities followed. 

In Durant’s case, that was easy to overlook because whenever his health allowed him to play he was and has been a joy to watch. He is one of the handful of greatest players on the planet. He nearly single-handedly delivered the Nets to the conference finals two years ago. 

But his wingman, Kyrie — that was another issue. 

Kyrie Irving
The Nets traded Kyrie Irving to the Mavericks on Sunday.

Now that unfaithful sidekick has fled the foxhole, has been shipped off to Dallas, and this 74-game experiment will forever be known as a one of basketball’s all-time cautionary tales. And now the Nets need to ask some hard questions, and all those answers will reveal is what the franchise’s next 5-10 years are going to look like. 

The Nets need to know, once and for all, where Durant’s heart is. Is he in it for the long term? Remember, Durant also demanded a trade last summer though he had to back off when it was apparent the Nets (wisely) weren’t going to accede to that for 60 cents on the dollar — especially because there was a run-it-back sense of taking one final (ill-conceived) chance with their two stars. Both of whom, it should be noted, were terrific this year; they were both named starters in the All-Star Game. 

And they played well as a team for a stretch, winning 18 out of 20 just before Durant hurt his knee. 

Kyrie Irving, left, and Kevin Durant
Kyrie Irving, left, and Kevin Durant’s Nets partnership is over.

But that, as with so much of the Durant/Irving partnership, was mere mirage. 

So now the Nets need to ask the hard question of their franchise centerpiece: Does he want to keep centerpiecing? Does he trust Marks can rebuild an elite team on the fly? Will he find life without Kyrie liberating or intolerable? Anything other than a complete commitment, Marks needs to see what’s out there now, because the next four days could well be one of the remarkable auctions of all time among NBA contenders if Durant is truly in play. 

The Nets finally dealt Irving to try to restore a modicum of franchise dignity and sanity. Durant holds the secrets to what their next move will be. All of this for 74 games. What a shame. What a waste.

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