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From the NYT Magazine: a Kevin Durant profile, a salute to "(Possibly) the Greatest Basketball Team of All Time," and some gaps

With the Brooklyn Nets decisively closing out the Boston Celtics last night, and a marquee series starting Saturday at the Barclays Center hosting the Milwaukee Bucks--perhaps the Nets' biggest challenge in the entire post-season--it's good timing for a New York Times Magazine article this Sunday.

That article is headlined online Kevin Durant and (Possibly) the Greatest Basketball Team of All Time, with the tagline, "The Brooklyn Nets were built to be an unbeatable superteam of eccentric basketball superstars. Will they dominate the N.B.A. playoffs?"

But Sam Anderson's piece reads more like a profile of the gifted forward, so it's no surprise that we learn, at the end, that the print headline is "The Moody Monkish Genius Of Kevin Durant." 

After all, the article doesn't mention Coach Steve Nash nor his predecessor Kenny Atkinson, barely mentions General Manager Sean Marks, and ignores team owners Mikhail Prokhorov and Joe Tsai--and much about the business of basketball. 

And while Anderson does muse about the notion of team, it doesn't say much about the odd nature of fandom, about "rooting for the clothes," about how such an oddly-assembled team whose stars have hardly played together, much less before full houses, can nonetheless--thanks to star power--become a fan magnet. (The parade in Brooklyn, should the Nets win the title, will draw big crowds, but it won't be the Dodgers redux.)

Nor--duh--does it address the subsidies, tax breaks, and regular encroachment on the neighborhood that the Barclays Center represents, nor the jobs and housing the overall Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project was supposed to bring.

The summary

But it's still a good read. Anderson notes that, in the era of player empowerment, launched with LeBron James's "Decision" to take his talents to South Beach, Durant has moved the needle on entire franchises, notably the Golden State Warriors:
This season, once again, Durant sits at the center of the wildest drama in basketball: a radical experiment in Brooklyn, where the once-hapless Nets have transformed themselves into a superteam around K.D. and his friends — a knot of talent so dense and strange, thrown together with such sudden force, that it is impossible to say whether it will steamroll the entire league or lose narrowly in the second round or dissolve into chaos and go off the grid and turn up 20 years from now on a submarine in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. The Nets seem designed to raise deep philosophical questions about not only basketball but also life. What is a team? What does it mean to belong? What would happen if we took 17 alternate story lines and folded them up together into an origami swan with three heads and a beard?
The Nets, indeed, may lose in the second round, but if they beat the Bucks, their chances of winning the title grow enormously.

More on the team's formation

Anderson describe the Nets' rebuild:
They had a balanced roster, a creative front office, a major media market and two maximum-salary slots to sign big stars. In the era of player empowerment, the Nets had built a perfect lightning rod to attract wandering superstars.
Unmentioned: a new practice facility in Sunset Park, to which Durant apparently drives his Tesla from Lower Manhattan. (No Brooklyn digs, for him, as of now.)

Unlike in his previous go-round:
Despite his torn Achilles, Kevin Durant was still the league’s most desirable free agent. He could have held a month of meetings out in the Hamptons. But this time, he avoided any drama. He took zero meetings. He simply informed the Nets that he would be joining their rebuilt franchise. Durant has always been different this way.
Then came guard Kyrie Irving, as a pair, and this January, the decisive addition of Durant's friend James Harden, another superstar, at relatively little cost. GM Sean Marks, according to the article, says he was hurt by having to trade away young talent but it was necessary:
“You’re reminded,” he told me, “that this is sometimes a cruel and unjust and strange and unfair world.” And yet he would have done the trade 100 times out of 100. Superteam logic is harsh, yes, but it is also irresistible. And it was now firmly in control of the Nets.
Or, more simply, it's a business. 

Mostly Durant

And now, to quote Anderson's description:
Do you want the tiny quicksilver thief (Kyrie Irving) or the burly crafty woodsman (James Harden) or the tall ethereal phantom (Kevin Durant)? Choose carefully — your survival depends on it. Somehow, Brooklyn figured out the cheat code that allows you to pick all three.
And Anderson calls Durant the best, the most natural/graceful basektball player. And while "It would be hard to assemble a more eccentric trio," given Irving's earth-is-flat statement, Harden's partying, and Durant's Twitter beefs," Anderson thinks the superteam will work, given the conglomeration of talent.

And the rest of the piece is a intriguing exploration of Durant, "a sort of basketball monk," his career, and his thoughts.

What it means to have possibly the greatest team ever, in a season with crowds (until the playoffs) constrained by the pandemic, and with this (recently assembled) team's limited connection to the home community--well, that will wait for other scribes.

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