Kevin Durant Minimizes the Importance of the Nets’ Playoff Rematch With the Bucks on Opening Night: ‘We’re Not Exercising Good Habits If We Only Get Up Against Good Teams Like Milwaukee’

The Brooklyn Nets have an opportunity to exercise some revenge for their playoff loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA season opener on Tuesday night. Still, Kevin Durant doesn’t have any interest in elevating this game above the other 81 contests on the schedule.

Durant said after Monday’s practice that the first game of a new season is always exciting. However, he minimized the importance of sending a message to the defending champions right out of the gate.

The Nets can avenge their playoff loss to the Bucks on Tuesday night in Milwaukee

The 2021-22 NBA season starts with a bang, as Kevin Durant, James Harden, and the Brooklyn Nets are in Milwaukee to take on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in a high-profile playoff rematch.

Milwaukee got the better of a banged-up Nets team during last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals. Durant did everything he could to propel Brooklyn to a series win, but a healthier Bucks team outlasted the Nets in seven games. Antetokounmpo and Co. would go on to win the NBA title, which in some ways could make the loss even more painful for Durant and his teammates.

Brooklyn has no choice but to relive those memories on Tuesday night.

The Bucks will receive their championship rings and raise the banner in the Fistserv Forum in a pregame ceremony that could bring down the house. Brooklyn will be forced to look on and wonder what might have been.

However, Durant — the leader of the franchise after signing an extension with the Nets this offseason — does not want to place too much emphasis on the contest as a “statement” game of sorts.

Kevin Durant preaches a consistent mindset ahead of Nets season opener

Kevin Durant hopes his Nets teammates treat this date with the Bucks like every other game on the schedule.

Durant said after Monday’s practice that Brooklyn shouldn’t be overly invested in the opener. He also emphasized the importance of keeping the same energy night in and night out, regardless of the opponent.

“No matter who we play, we’ve got to hold ourselves to a championship-level standard. We’re not exercising good habits if we only get up against teams like Milwaukee.”

–Kevin Durant

If it seems like Durant is expressing indifference about Tuesday’s tilt with the Bucks, that’s only because he’s pretty much lived by the “never too high, never too low” credo throughout his career.

Not to mention, he’s right. If the Nets want to live up to their status as NBA championship favorites, they always have to be accountable for effort and dedication to the grind. Ultimately, it will be up to KD to set the bar for Brooklyn.

Can Durant and the Nets still win without Kyrie Irving?

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant looks on during an NBA preseason game
Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Barclays Center on October 14, 2021, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City | Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The general assumption following Brooklyn’s playoff loss is that a healthy “Big Three” of Durant, Harden, and Kyrie Irving should be considered a clear favorite to win the NBA title. What happens when one of those stars is removed from the equation?

Irving is not permitted to return to the team until he is fully eligible to participate in basketball activities. In other words, Kyrie cannot play until he gets vaccinated against COVID-19, something he’s been reluctant to do out of some twisted sense of principle.

Alas, the onus will be on Durant and Harden to drive the car without Irving on the floor. That tandem had success last season, albeit in a small sample size.

Brooklyn went 9-2 in the regular season when Durant and Harden shared the floor. The two superstars are among the best shot creators and playmakers in the NBA and should be a handful for opposing defenses.

Durant had his most efficient season ever in terms of true shooting percentage (66.6%), while Harden averaged close to 11 assists after coming to Brooklyn. The Nets figure to have plenty of success if both guys can stay healthy and give the team similar production.

The expectations remain high for this Nets team even without Irving in the mix. It all starts Tuesday against the Bucks, though Durant is preaching a more holistic approach.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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