With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets are in all new territory

NEW YORK — A new era of Brooklyn Nets basketball was born at 4:16 a.m. ET on June 30.

That’s when Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan officially decided during a video call on FaceTime that they were joining forces in Brooklyn.

“You can thank Apple,” Jordan joked.

It all sounded so simple.

“Are we ready to do it? And everybody was like, ‘Yeah,’” Durant said, drawing laughter from reporters.

So it was really that simple?

“It wasn’t as crazy as me getting locked in my house,” Jordan said jokingly, referring to that wild night four years ago when the Clippers persuaded him to change his mind and stay in Los Angeles.

In the end, as Irving put it, “We wanted to end our careers together, do it as a team, and what better place to do it than Brooklyn?”

The truth is, the wheels were in motion long before the eve of free agency.

They all talked about the possibility two years ago, according to Jordan.

Regardless, as late as early April, Nets higher-ups were expressing confidence behind the scenes that they were about to do something special during the summer.

And once the stars aligned, the various parties involved worked hard to make the money work in a complicated salary-cap situation made easier once the Golden State Warriors realized they were going to lose K.D. and agreed to a sign-and-trade deal with Brooklyn that included D’Angelo Russell.

Durant got four years and $164 million. Irving got four years and $141 million. And Jordan received four years and $40 million.

Sep 27, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA;  Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) poses for a portrait during media day at HSS Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Durant won't play this season, but has the focus on the Nets. (Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports)

The largest outside free-agent deal the Nets had ever struck with a player before that? Jeremy Lin at three years and $36 million in 2016.

Everything the “Markinson” Nets had done to this point — preaching culture, family, continuity and player development ad nauseam — ended up paying off in the biggest way possible.

They turned late first-round picks Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen into core pieces. They got to the playoffs with a team that many thought had no chance of getting there heading into last season. And they got their books in order.

As a result, coach Kenny Atkinson and general manager Sean Marks landed a pair of superstars who also happen to be best friends — without ever meeting them before they decided to join Brooklyn.

“I thought about it for a couple seconds,” K.D. said of his free-agency decision that was thought to be between the Nets, Knicks, Clippers and Warriors. “But ultimately I wanted to be here.”

Watching YouTube videos of Atkinson coaching, KD said, helped influence his decision.

Irving, the Jersey kid who grew up a Nets fan watching Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin transform the franchise in the early-2000s, wanted to be here, too. And early in the offseason, it seemed like a fait accompli.

“I wanted to reach out to Brooklyn at the start of free agency and let them know that my interest was very high,” Irving said. “And I had some pieces I wanted to bring with me as well.”

With K.D. expected to be out for the season after having Achilles surgery, Irving will have the keys to the franchise in 2019-20.

He’ll have a chance to put up monster numbers and change his perception around the league.

“I’m trying to prove everyone right — that I’m the next one to take over the league for the next few years,” said Irving, who opened up about how the death of his grandfather led him to want to return home and back out of his commitment to the Boston Celtics.

“I didn’t give [my teammates in Boston] everything I had,” Irving said. “Bringing everyone together, I failed.”

But everyone will get a fresh slate in Brooklyn, with a franchise best known for its on-court failures, empty championship promises and flashy buildings. Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce all came up short — leaving the Nets with just one playoff series victory since they moved here in 2012.

Yet that could change quickly. Expectations are about to be ratcheted up. The organization is suddenly very interesting and relevant again, as evidenced by the more than 200 media members (including crews) in attendance for media day.

There wasn’t any title talk, however, just Irving saying he wants to protect Durant from coming back too soon — “We all know K was not ready to play in that environment” — and making sure his teammate is “101 percent healthy” before he returns.

Either way, they don’t want to waste this season either.

Atkinson, in particular, pointed out various low win projections for his team.

“I’ve seen, ‘Nets win 38 games, 37 games, low 40s,’” he said. “I don’t want to look at those as a negative thing. We understand the challenge.”

Added Jordan: “The NBA is wide-open. It’s anybody’s game. But this isn’t a practice season or a trial season. We want to go.”

If you know where this franchise has been, seeing Durant (No. 7) and Irving (No. 11) both wearing Nets jerseys seems incomprehensible.

Who knows if it’s going to work?

Who knows whether Durant can return to MVP form?

Who knows whether Irving can learn from his past mistakes to become the leader he was supposed to be with Boston?

Yet here they both are in Brooklyn, at one of the most pristine practice facilities in the NBA, ushering in a new era of Brooklyn basketball. One built on superstardom. One built on friendship. And one — more importantly they hope — built on winning.

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