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Kevin Durant said he was anxious and nervous. He'd been visualizing the day for so long, and there he was, finally, in a Brooklyn Nets uniform, on the Barclays Center court, playing in an actual game.

OK, it was preseason, and there were no fans to welcome him, but still. Durant ticked off a milestone on Sunday, 552 days after tearing his Achilles in Toronto. He dunked on a baseline drive, made a few easy-for-him-and-only-him jumpers and finished with 15 points in 24 minutes. He called it a good first step, but said he will measure his progress when he goes up against the league's best players and best defenses. Not the Washington Wizards without their three best players in an exhibition game.

Durant was arguably the top player on the planet before the injury, competing for what would have been a three-peat with the Golden State Warriors. Now he's trying to get back to that level on a new team, with a new co-star and a first-time head coach. Just five players remain from the feel-good Nets squad that rallied to make the playoffs two years ago, and most of them have been in trade rumors. Regardless of whether or not a blockbuster is forthcoming, this is the start of something completely different.

In 2019-20, Brooklyn's bridge year never really got going. Kyrie Irving had spectacular moments in Kenny Atkinson's system, but injuries prevented the Nets from seeing Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert coexist for any meaningful stretch after the ninth game of the season. Atkinson was out by the second week of March, replaced by Jacque Vaughn, then the pandemic hit and the Nets brought a makeshift roster to the bubble. Among the starters in the preseason opener, Joe Harris, back on a four-year, $72 million extension, is the only one who went to Orlando. Vaughn is now on Steve Nash's staff, as are Mike D'Antoni and Amar'e Stoudemire.

Can this group coalesce into something special? The talent is there, but Nash and Irving know better than most that talent isn't everything. Between the rumors and Irving's short-lived media blackout, there are already storylines beyond how to stagger the playmakers and how to get enough stops to have a shot at a title. One way or another, this is going to be fun.

Taking the temperature

Nets believer: Everybody says you can't draw conclusions from preseason games, but what we saw in Durant's debut confirmed everything that the Nets had been saying. K.D. looked like K.D., and unsurprisingly, Kyrie looked like Kyrie, too. 

Even if the front office hadn't had such an awesome offseason, I'd be giddy about watching this team. But it did! I love that they found a way to get Landry Shamet, another deadeye shooter; Jeff Green, the stretch 5 they've needed for years; and Bruce Brown, a 24-year-old stopper. It seems like Reggie Perry might be a steal, too. This team is set up to win a ton of regular-season games without overtaxing the superstars, and, as long as the main guys are healthy in the playoffs, I think they'll make the Finals. 

Nets skeptic: It's been one meaningless game. Slow down on the Finals stuff. 

This isn't really a Finals-caliber team, anyway. It's is the type of team that people overrate because they're too distracted by the upside to think about what outcome is most likely. I don't get why anybody would assume that the Nets are going to be healthy, or that they are going to be resilient if they're not healthy. I'm taking a wait-and-see approach here. 

Nets believer: Depth is resilience, and the Nets have it. I am not sure people realize how much of a luxury it is to have Dinwiddie as your third option and LeVert as your sixth man (or vice versa). Nash has the luxury of two starting-caliber bigs, and he can go with Durant or Green at 5 if he wants spacing. This isn't some mishmash of random dudes; it's a stacked team that makes sense and is going to score so, so many points. 

Nets skeptic: You're essentially doing a cost-benefit analysis and ignoring the costs. I want to see how Durant and Irving hold up over the course of the season, and I want to see how the team comes together after a short training camp. Do you think the Nets are going to be cohesive right away? Do you think they're going to be awesome defensively? I have serious doubts. 

Nets believer: Yes, they'll be cohesive. These are smart players who wanted to play together, and they've had more than a year to think about it. They've all heard the rumors and the concern-trolling about the fit and the defense, and they'll be motivated to figure this thing out. I don't know if Nash is going to be an amazing in-game coach, especially at first, but few players in NBA history were on his level when it comes to leadership and bringing a locker room together. I imagine that will translate. 

Nets skeptic: That's a lot to put on Nash, and this is about much more than motivation. It's about Dinwiddie and LeVert making enough spot-up 3s to keep defenses honest. It's about building an offensive system that empowers K.D. and Kyrie to get buckets without marginalizing everybody else on the floor. And on the other end, I mean, it's about personnel. 

I don't expect Irving to provide much resistance on the perimeter, and I don't expect Jordan to turn into the defensive anchor he was four years ago. Nash keeps talking about playing an aggressive style, which sounds great, but I'd be more excited about it if they had a whole bunch of big, switchable wings. The best-case scenario here is that they are dialed-in enough to end up around average defensively, but I anticipate they'll be much worse than that. This is why, as spectacular as they could be on offense, I can't pick them over the Heat, Bucks, Raptors, Celtics and 76ers, all of whom will be much sturdier. 

Nets believer: Your concerns are valid, I guess, but you're making a choice to give them the same weight as the Nets' obvious potential for greatness. You were probably prattling on and on about the Lakers' shortcomings last year, too, while LeBron James and Anthony Davis were stomping on everybody. The Nets can be like that, but with their strengths and weaknesses inverted. Come to think of it, that would be a perfect Finals matchup. 

Eye on: Bruce Brown

If Brown had remained in Detroit or been moved to another rebuilding team, he might be in line for a breakout. He already made a leap last season, going from a defense-only wing to a combo guard with real playmaking responsibility and a vastly improved jump shot. In Brooklyn, though, he seems to be on the fringes of the rotation, despite possibly being the best defender on the entire roster.

Coaches have trouble keeping guys like Brown off the floor. He can guard bigger players and loves taking rebounds from them. The problem is that, at full strength, the Nets have to find enough minutes for Irving, Dinwiddie and LeVert, so Brown will have to battle with Shamet, Tyler Johnson and Chris Chiozza for whatever scraps are left. Brown's DNP-CD in Brooklyn's first preseason game doesn't mean he's out of the rotation, but it does show how stiff this competition is.