Preseason games usually don't draw much attention, but then again preseason games usually don't feature a former MVP making his return to action after 18 months on the sidelines. That was the case on Sunday, when Kevin Durant took the floor for the first time as a member of the Brooklyn Nets.
Together with Kyrie Irving, he helped the Nets take down the Washington Wizards, 119-114. Sure, results don't really matter in these games, but no one's going to complain about starting off the Durant-Irving era with a win. They combined for 33 points on 12 of 21 from the field, and showed a glimpse of how tough it's going to be for opponents to guard them this season.
Unfortunately, Russell Westbrook was sitting out for the Wizards, so we didn't get to see the old teammates go up against each other, but it's hard to complain too much after the display we saw from Durant and Irving.
With the first game in the books, here are some key takeaways:
A lot has changed in the 552 days since Kevin Durant tore his Achilles tendon during Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals. He signed with the Nets to team up with Kyrie Irving, an entire season has come and gone, and a pandemic has taken over the world.
But on Sunday we finally got a little sense of normalcy back in our lives, because we were able to watch Durant play basketball again. To some extent, it didn't really matter how he looked. After all, this was just a preseason game and the first time he was playing competitively in 18 months.
Mostly we just wanted to see him out there again. So the fact that he basically picked up right where he left off was icing on the cake. You really couldn't have scripted a more perfect start than his smooth drive and dunk to open the game. The basketball world is just a better place with Durant in it.
Durant and Irving put on a show
Durant's return got the main billing on Sunday, simply because it had been so long since he stepped on the court, but that was far from the only key storyline. With Irving back as well, this was the first time that the superstar duo would take the floor together for the Nets.
And if this game was any indication, it's going to be an exciting year in Brooklyn. Durant and Irving outscored the Wizards by themselves in the first quarter, and put together a dominant offensive display in the first half, combining for 33 points on 12 of 17 from the field.
Durant ended up cooling off a bit in his brief second-half stint, but he still finished with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists on 5 of 12 from the field, while Irving ended with 18 points and four assists on 8 of 9 shooting.
Irving, in particular, was majestic, making a number of his trademark isolation jumpers and acrobatic finishes in the paint. When he's cooking like he was against the Wizards, it's about as beautiful as individual basketball can get.
Now, look, this was a preseason game, and the Wizards' defense is… how to put this? Not good. So we don't want to get too carried away. Every game isn't going to be this easy, and the Nets have some question marks of their own on the defensive end. But at the very least it was clear from this first outing that the Nets are going to be all sorts of fun this season.
Hey, how about Deni Avdija
While everyone was focused on KD and Kyrie, the Wizards' top draft pick had himself a nice evening as well. This was probably the first extended action most fans got to watch of the No. 9 overall pick, who was playing professionally in Israel for the last few years.
And as far as first impressions go, it doesn't get much better than the one Avdija made. He was a perfect 6 of 6 from the field en route to 15 points, four rebounds and two assists. If that wasn't enough, he also tossed in an off-balance runner to beat the halftime buzzer.
Perhaps most encouraging was that he went 3 of 3 from downtown. Outside shooting was a question mark with Avdija coming into the league, and will likely be a big factor in terms of how good he ends up being -- both this year and moving forward. Obviously he isn't going to make every shot he takes from 3-point land, but if he can be even a reliable spot-up shooter, that's going to go a long way for both him and the Wizards.