The Brooklyn Nets stole the headlines in the beginning of NBA free agency, pulling off a shocking coup as they landed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the New York Knicks.
After nearly two decades of being lost in the wilderness, Knicks fans hoped their franchise would finally become a contender this offseason with the additions of Durant, Irving and Zion Williamson. It was not to be, as both stars opted to sign across town and Williamson wound up being picked by the New Orleans Pelicans.
What were the reasons behind KD and Kyrie shunning “The Garden” for Barclays Center? Well, according to Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, they were what you might expect.
After determining they wanted to play together, both players at least considered the Knicks internally, but the Nets’ tangible rebuilding plan, “superior roster” and “better infrastructure” won out.
Initially, Irving and Durant discussed joining forces with the Knicks. Irving, who was raised in New Jersey, liked the idea of playing close to home. Durant, who was launching a media company in New York, liked the potential synergy, as well as the chance to be closer to his family in Maryland.
But that plan quickly lost steam as the Knicks lost their way. New York won just 17 games with a haphazard roster and a collection of underachieving young prospects. The Nets, meanwhile, were exceeding all expectations, eventually winning 42 games and capturing the sixth seed in the East.
Additionally, neither KD nor Kyrie wanted to burden themselves with the role of “savior” for a downtrodden franchise so badly in need of one.
And neither Irving nor Durant were eager to wear the “savior” mantle that’s thrust upon every star player, coach or executive who lands at Madison Square Garden, from Stephon Marbury, Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas to Carmelo Anthony, Mike D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh.
The logic behind KD and Kyrie’s reported decision-making process is unquestionably sound. The Nets are a better organization right now in every way than the Knicks.
Fortunately for the Knicks, they finally seem to want to rebuild the right way. Right now, New York’s roster is filled with young players and veterans on short contracts.
Will it pay off in the long run? We’ll see. For now, they will have to stomach watching their two top targets from this summer team up in their backyard.