Signings of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving Signify Monumental Cultural Shift for Brooklyn Nets

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving Join the Brooklyn Nets
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08: Kevin Durant #5 and Kyrie Irving #10 of United States talk on the court during the Men's Priliminary Round between the United States and Venezuela on Day 3 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

In one fell swoop on the last day in June prior to the NBA signing bonanza, the Brooklyn Nets became the biggest story in the NBA by signing both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to max contracts. The implications of these signings could monumentally alter the perception of the Brooklyn franchise. The signings represent a seismic and cultural shift on how they are viewed league-wide.

Brooklyn Nets Rewrite Their Own Story

One of the worst-kept secrets all season long was how Durant and Irving wanted to team up and all the prior speculation had them pairing up with the other New York team— the New York Knicks. However, New York reportedly did not want to offer Durant a max deal with him having to possibly sit out next season with his well-known Achilles tear injury.

Alas, it was not meant to be for the Knicks as Irving and Durant chose the Nets.

Throw in the Nets also signing DeAndre Jordan, Garrett Temple, and Wilson Chandler to value contracts— as well as acquiring Taurean Prince a few weeks ago from the Atlanta Hawks— and the Nets are all of a sudden cooking with grease.

What Nets’ General Manager Sean Marks has been able to do in his three short years in Brooklyn is nothing short of phenomenal. Long hamstrung by the terrible trade the Nets made to get Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett six years ago— and subsequently forfeiting three unprotected first-round picks to the Boston Celtics— Marks has done a great job picking up the pieces and has left an indelible mark on the franchise with his no-nonsense approach to upgrading the talent level.

Rebuilding the Roster

He made shrewd moves to build the proper infrastructure the Nets needed to make to become a major player on the scene. He drafted or acquired key glue guys in Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Rodions Kurucs, Dzanan Musa, and Caris LeVert.

All this assembling and re-configuring resulted in the Nets making the NBA playoffs. It was the first time in four years. The last Nets’ playoff team included the aforementioned Garnett.

Granted, D’Angelo Russell is now gone from the mix but the core-surrounding nucleus still remains. Now you add two superstars. Adding Durant and Irving to the mix results in the Nets not being just playoff contenders but serious contenders for the NBA Finals. If not in the 2019-20 season, at least in the 2020-21 season.

Kevin Durant’s Injury Recovery is Key

Some will question Durant’s injury and whether he can successfully come back. Well, outside of the 2014-15 season in which Durant missed 55 games with a variety of maladies, Durant has never missed more than 62 games in a season.

It’s a risk for sure, especially at the price attached. But for Marks, it’s a move you can make. Especially with all the goodwill, he has built up. Even if he is 90 percent of himself, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are capable of carrying the Nets into contention. They can legitimize the Nets brand in the process.

The signings are about believing in the process and staying patient while Durant rehabs his way back.

Even if Durant and Irving can’t bring home the ultimate glory in the form of the Larry O’Brien trophy to Brooklyn, the mere presence and the cache that they possess can catapult the Nets’ franchise on a trajectory that can make them a perennial power in the Eastern Conference for many years.

Just remember that Marks learned the tricks of the trade from the likes of Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford in San Antonio. So, he clearly has the background and the know-how to build a formidable team and keep it a sustainable force.

The Ultimate Goal

Again, this doesn’t have to be all about post-season glory. Although one could argue that could still very well come to fruition when Durant is at near-perfect health. It is the mere optics of two legit superstars coming aboard a team on the upswing. It generates buzz and moves the needle for the Nets’ franchise.

Factor in that the basketball-rich city of New York is thirsty for a winning culture. This has all the makings of a move that will pay for itself with the publicity of Durant and Irving.

More eyeballs will now descend upon Brooklyn and make Brooklyn the place to be. That is huge considering the Nets came in last in attendance.

With a great foundation in place and by adding Durant and Irving, as well as Marks doing his thing and the unheralded Kenny Atkinson calling the shots as coach, the Nets have all the players, variables and intangibles to transform their franchise for the foreseeable future.

It’s a win-win any way you slice it for the Brooklyn Nets.

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Dan Stack has been writing and reporting about sports since 2003, but has been dabbling in journalism ever since his days when writing for his college newspaper, The Pioneer (LIU C.W. Post) back in 1995. He comes to Last Word on Sports after having previously worked at FanRag Sports where he was a college basketball analyst, as well as lead recruiting analyst for both college football and basketball. Stack also worked at BleacherReport.com (where he wrote about fantasy football and college basketball, while amassing over one million page views), Fanball.com (he ran a blog for the Pittsburgh Steelers-SteelersMill.com), FantasyPros911.com (wrote about fantasy football and baseball), SNYGiants.com (New York Giants coverage), NYGiantsRush.com, Mets360.com (Mets baseball coverage), CollegeHoopsNet.com, RotoWire.com (fantasy baseball beat writer) and Sportsmedia101.com (where he wrote and blogged at Knicks101.com). He is also a senior writer for WeAreDePaul.com, and has written and reported on the DePaul men's basketball program since 2003. He has covered many Big East games on the east coast and has been a regular at the Big East Tournament for more than a decade. Prior to his online sports writing career, Stack was also the Managing Editor of his county's weekly newspaper, the Rockland County Times, from 2007 to 2009. He has a BA degree from C.W. Post with a major in broadcasting and a minor in journalism. At Post, he not only wrote for the school newspaper, but also was a DJ at the school's radio station (WCWP) and was a crew member for Post TV (the University's TV Station). If want to hear rumblings on college basketball, fantasy sports, New York fandom an other random pop culture musings, be sure to follow him on Twitter @Stacdemon

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