There are very few NBA players who can truly relate to Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James. In terms of the pressure from fans, respect (and fear) from peers, the rollercoaster of praise, then criticism from the media. Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets is among those slim few who understand what it means to be a modern NBA icon.
And like James, Durant finds his season cut short, largely due to circumstances far beyond his control. The Boston Celtics had the final say in Durant’s 14th season in the league, as they swept the Nets in the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
While Durant came to Brooklyn in hopes of building a dynasty to defeat James and the Lakers, he had no idea he would only play 16 games with the promised “Big 3” featuring James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
One thing James understands is that no season is guaranteed. Since winning the NBA title alongside Anthony Davis in 2020, the Lakers have looked like a shell of their former selves. Just as Lakers fans were quick to blame James for recruiting Russell Westbrook, Durant knew, as the biggest player on his team, that the blame would likely fall squarely on his shoulders.
Durant explained to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports that the recruitment process, however, is out of the player’s hands:
“I feel like that’s a narrative that [media created]. I don’t even think LeBron does that,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “He might have input or know some information. But him saying [pointing left], ‘This is who you should get.’ [Points right.] ‘That’s who you should get,’ I don’t think it works like that.
“I’ve been around Steph, he doesn’t work like that. Let people do their jobs. It’s not on me to overstep what they do. I’m just here to support. If they need me to text or call somebody that may come, of course.”
Similar to the Lakers, the Nets have a long summer ahead of them to prepare for next season. Summer will likely bring trades and new faces to support the talent of players like James and Durant as they try to make the most of their remaining years with their current teams.
Despite pushback from Durant and even James though, it seems that the Lakers front office wants it to be known that their stars are involved in roster building.
Post second round playoffs without James and Durant, first time in over a decade
As Durant joins James on the metaphorical icons couch to watch the remainder of playoff basketball, it gestures the beginning of a new era, featuring new stars. Each night features incredible showdowns between young players like Anthony Edwards, Ja Morant and Brandon Ingram.
The 2022 Conference Semifinals will take place without both James and Durant for the first time in 17 years, signaling what could be the end of an era.
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