Kevin Durant’s first contract with the Nets came fresh off tearing his right Achilles tendon with the Warriors. He limped onto a projected and thrown-together super-team that could be more formally launched when everyone was healthy.
With a Kyrie Irving (reportedly unvaccinated) asterisk, the countdown for the launch has begun.
Durant’s second contract with the Nets — a four-year extension worth $198 million inked in August — comes with James Harden as another running mate and after a remarkable comeback season that showed his legs are under him again.
“Everybody’s more comfortable in this environment. We’ve been through a season together — even though we were injured, we still traveled together, practiced and were around each other every day,” Durant said at media day at Barclays Center on Monday.
The new and old additions, such as the out-of-retirement LaMarcus Aldridge, sharpshooter Patty Mills and Blake Griffin, who was re-signed, has Durant confident about the team’s supporting cast.
“The IQ is pretty high with this group, and it’s just a matter of us actually getting reps in, and we’re looking forward to that,” said the relaxed 32-year-old. “So I think we got a lot of boxes checked. But once we get on the court, I think that’s the final one.”
Last year, he demonstrated that as a perhaps once-in-a-lifetime scorer, whose athleticism is unmatched and with an ability to rise above just about anyone, he could be the same player post-surgery. Durant actually shot better than his last season as a Warrior and scored 26.9 points per game on 54 percent shooting.
This summer, he led Team USA to a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and broke Carmelo Anthony’s Olympic record for points scored.
This season, which he enters fully healthy, how good can he be?
“I don’t want to predict. I don’t know,” Durant said. “I’m going to keep getting better. You guys have been seeing me for 15 years. You probably can project where I’ll be at the end of the season.”
Griffin called it a “no-brainer” to return to the Nets.
“It’s not often that you get to play for an organization that you really feel like personally has everything handled from top to bottom,” Griffin said.
Or an organization that could put him on the fast-track to a title.
“Obviously, Kevin and Ky won, but most of us have had some individual success but never won a championship,” said Griffin, who has never been to a conference finals. “Everyone’s coming together for this common goal.”
Joe Harris became a target of Nets fans’ frustration at the end of last season, and he understands it’s part of being an athlete today.
In the Nets’ second-round loss to Milwaukee, he shot 33 percent from deep after leading the league from 3-point range at 47.5 percent during the season.
He took abuse on social media, which he stays away from. But he could not escape all the criticism.
“My mom and my sister beat me up pretty good,” Harris said to laughs. “I know that I’m capable of playing better than what I showed at the end of the last postseason.”