Discord isn’t just an app. It’s the definition of the Nets’ offseason.
In all the years the Nets have hosted their annual Media Day, they have never been peppered by the barrage of questions they are expected to be hit with Monday. And the few that won’t be about Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving are going to be about Durant and Irving.
The two stars created such chaos in Brooklyn that Ben Simmons — who missed all of last season with back and mental-health woes — seems steady by comparison.
Irving missed almost two-thirds of last season because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19 and could not play in New York, among other places. He followed that with a contentious contract battle with the front office.
Then, Durant requested a trade, and tried to get both coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks fired before finally relenting when Nets owner Joe Tsai held firm.
How awkward will Monday be, with both of the men Durant tried to submarine and sabotage fielding questions while sitting next to him at HSS Training Center? How dysfunctional will practice be the next day, and the day after that? And how will the players welcome their stars, one of whom left them hanging last season and the other of whom tried to bolt before this season?
How the Nets work through whatever feelings are left will go a long way toward determining exactly what kind of season they have, a winning one or another wretched one.
“We are focusing on basketball, with one collective goal in mind: build a lasting franchise to bring a championship to Brooklyn,” Marks said after Durant’s heel turn.
Granted, teams don’t have to love each other to succeed. Sometimes talent wins out.
The Yankees won the 1977 World Series after Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin had a physical altercation in the dugout in Boston. After the late Lakers great Kobe Bryant asked for a trade, he won the MVP that season and helped his team to titles in the next two.
And when LeBron James tried to get Heat coach Erik Spoelstra fired in 2010 — only to have his attempt summarily rejected by team president Pat Riley — Miami reached the Finals in each of the next four seasons, and won a couple of championships.
For a Nets team with one playoff series win in Durant and Irving’s three years in Brooklyn, even making an NBA Finals is a tall ask. But with a roster led by the Big 3 of Durant, Irving and Simmons — and adding T.J. Warren to the likes of Joe Harris, Seth Curry — that should be the absolute low bar of expectations going into camp.
The endgame? A ring.
“It’s going to be sick. I can’t wait. I’m so excited,” Simmons said on the episode Thursday of the “The Old Man & the Three” podcast. “I’ve got a new number, a new jersey. I’m just looking forward to it. I think we have a special team, and if we get it all together, we’re going to be champions. That’s the end goal.
“But yeah, I’m excited. It’s New York City. I’m playing with some unbelievable players, and a great coaching staff.”
Can those players and that staff coexist? That’s what they’ll be asked Monday, and that’s what they’ll have to prove once the regular season starts and they hit the inevitable bumps along the road.
The Nets have five players — Harris, Curry, Simmons, Warren and Edmond Sumner — coming back from some form of surgery. Simmons, Warren and Sumner each missed all of last season. Their current Big 3 hasn’t played a second together, and they haven’t even played mediocre defense much less championship defense.
For a contender, the Nets will be facing a host of questions. How exactly Durant and Irving fit back in — with their bosses and their teammates — will be the biggest one.