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Five questions for the Nets this season

Nets forward Kevin Durant shoots a free throw

Nets forward Kevin Durant shoots a free throw against the Wizards during an NBA preseason game at Barclays Center on Sunday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

1. Is Kevin Durant still Kevin Durant?

Durant only had two preseason games to test his condition, but thanks to COVID-19 pandemic, he had more than 18 months to recover from right Achilles tendon surgery. He excelled in high-level workouts last fall in Los Angeles, and he played well in the Nets’ only two preseason games. But this man is a two-time NBA Finals MVP and one-time NBA MVP, so, he has a high bar to clear. The only player in the Eastern Conference who approaches Durant’s ability is two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks. And he doesn’t have nearly the support Durant will have with incredibly deep Nets.

2. Will Kyrie Irving be a creative genius or a distraction with his media conflicts vs. his playmaking?

Irving only managed 20 appearances last season because of a variety of injuries before he underwent shoulder surgery on March 3. He only had an 8-12 record in those games, and Nets were 27-25 without him. But Irving had two 50-point games and averaged 27.4 points, 6.4 assists and 5.4 rebounds. He boycotted media interviews early in training camp and was fined $25,000 but then re-engaged and had no trouble. The key is he and Kevin Durant are best friends and share a mutual chemistry that should benefit Nets immensely.

3. Can Hall of Famer and two-time MVP Steve Nash manage Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving combination and develop his own coaching chops in first-ever NBA coaching experience?

Nash was an out-of-the-blue hire despite his longtime friendship with Nets general manager Sean Marks. His only coaching experience was as part-time developmental coach with Golden State. But Nash has brilliant basketball IQ and understands collaborative nature of current situation and how to work with big egos like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. He also has surrounded himself with great assistants, including long-time head coach Mike D’Antoni. "All of those guys come together and chime in," Durant said. "There’s no one single voice that’s…taking over, so it’s been fun. We’ve got to keep growing, though."

4. Will the shadow of trade rumors for Rockets star James Harden linger over Nets and possibly disrupt their chemistry?

Multiple reports suggest there is no doubt reigning three-time NBA scoring champion James Harden asked the Rockets to trade him to the Nets so he could reunite with former Thunder teammate Kevin Durant. The deal did not happen right away, and Nets general manager Sean Marks indicated he doesn’t want to "mortgage future" by surrendering up to three first-round picks. At same time, Marks signed multiple guards in case he has to trade Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. But the Rockets want a superstar in return. Maybe Marks wants to see how current the Nets roster performs before making big move..

5. Is Nets’ depth a match for defending champion Lakers and top Eastern Conference teams?

It’s hard to evaluate, but the Nets might be NBA’s deepest team. Beyond Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, they have Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, DeAndre Jordan, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, Shamet Landry, Jeff Green, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Tyler Johnson and Bruce Brown. But champion Lakers have LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuczma. Lakers would be favored in Finals matchup.

New York Sports