When the Brooklyn Nets signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the 2019 offseason, it was apparent that the team were destined to eventually become a juggernaut.

With two stars and the talent behind them to either keep a deep bench or trade for a third star, the Nets were always in position to become a contender, even with Durant sitting out last season to rehabilitate his ruptured Achilles.

Because of Brooklyn's pedigree, Steve Nash – the former two-time MVP turned first-year head coach – will not be considered for Coach of the Year.

But Brooklyn's road to title contention has been a bumpy one, and Nash has helped guide the Nets to the top of the Eastern Conference – alongside the Philadelphia 76ers – despite challenging circumstances.

The Nets have won six games in a row to climb to 28-13, tied with the 76ers for the best record in the East, but it can be easy to forget the obstacles Brooklyn have faced in the first half of the season. 

One look at the Nets' first game of the season, a 125-99 win over the Golden State Warriors, serves as a reminder of this team's dramatic metamorphosis.

Spencer Dinwiddie started in the backcourt alongside Irving to open the season but played just three games before suffering a ligament tear in his right knee, ending his season.

Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Landry Shamet and Taurean Prince combined to play over 80 minutes in the season opener and only now remains in Brooklyn after the James Harden trade – Shamet.

Since the Nets traded away much of their depth, Nash has tinkered with line-ups and found gems further down the bench to supplement the team's star-power.

Bruce Brown, who was acquired in November for virtually nothing, has morphed into a versatile role-player who is very efficient from the floor.

Brown played a total of 13 minutes in the Nets' first seven games this season but has become a key member of the team's rotation, starting in 23 games and guarding much taller players in Brooklyn's smaller line-ups. Brown is shooting 55.5 per cent from the floor this campaign and averaged 18.0 points during a six-game stretch before the All-Star break. Brooklyn are 11-2 when Brown scores in double figures this season and 7-0 when he scores at least 15.

Tyler Johnson was also an afterthought to start the season, appearing in just seven of Brooklyn's first 24 games. Since then, Johnson has played just under 20 minutes per game while developing into a reliable floor-spacer, shooting 42.4 percent from beyond the three-point arc this term and going five for eight from deep in his only start.

Journeyman Jeff Green is scoring 11.9 points per game since the Harden trade – compared to 6.1 before the deal – and has even started at center when DeAndre Jordan has been forced to miss games.

While Nash has been blessed with three star players on his roster, even the trio of Durant, Irving and Harden has faced hardships.

Irving took an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons in early January without communicating with the team first. While he only missed seven games, the mystery of Irving's absence left the Nets in a state of uncertainty and left Nash to answer for his star guard amid a barrage of media questions.

Nash showed the savvy of a veteran head coach and the sensitivity required in the new-age NBA by not vilifying Irving. A more authoritarian coach could have used the media to force Irving back, a move that may have jeopardised a relationship with a star player and eroded the trust of the entire team.

Irving returned with back-to-back 30-point games and is averaging career highs with 27.6 points per game, 52.0-percent shooting from the field and 41.5-percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Then there is Durant, who has reminded the world that he may have been the best player in the NBA before rupturing his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals, but the former MVP has missed more games than he has played this season.

After two stints in league COVID-19 protocols, Durant has been sidelined for over a month with a hamstring strain and is expected to be out another week or two after having a routine MRI to track progress.

In all, the Nets have had 21 different starting line-ups this season, second only to the Houston Rockets' 26. That number is likely to increase soon, once Blake Griffin is ready to make his Brooklyn debut.

Only sharpshooter Joe Harris has played in every game for the Nets in 2020-21.

While Harden has been reliably excellent since moving to Brooklyn, Irving has missed 12 games and Durant has been absent for 22. The trio have been on the floor for just 186 minutes so far, less than 10 percent of Brooklyn's season.

Those minutes, however, have been transcendent, bucking a recent trend of power trios going through growing pains before hitting their stride.

With Durant, Irving and Harden on the floor at the same time, the Nets are averaging 120.6 points per 100 possessions. And while some pundits envisioned this offensive-minded trio taking turns in isolation plays, 64.8 percent of the Nets' field goals have been assisted when they all play together, more than when one or more of the stars is relegated to the sideline.

It is hard to deny Nash credit for the quick chemistry between Durant, Irving and Harden, and his ability to fill gaps with role players has kept Brooklyn playing well even when the stars are sitting.

The Nets' star-power makes Nash virtually ineligible to win Coach of the Year, an award that typically goes to an over-performing team that are good but not great. While Durant, Irving and Harden will receive accolades for the Nets' season, a lesser coach certainly could have derailed this runaway train given the numerous challenges.

Yes, the Nets have elite talent. But Nash has done plenty to maximise that talent while largely flying under the radar.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash said Kevin Durant has showed "improvement" in his recovery from a hamstring injury, but a return is still a few "weeks" away.

Durant has been sidelined since February 13 due to a right hamstring strain, which forced him to sit out the NBA All-Star Game this month.

While Durant is on track with his recovery, Nash said the former MVP still has work to do.

"We're monitoring it and expect him to make a full recovery," Nash said ahead of Brooklyn's clash with the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.

"And hopefully it won't be too long. But he's probably got a couple weeks of ramp-up left."

Durant made his long-awaited debut for the Nets this season after sitting out the 2019-20 campaign due to an Achilles injury sustained with the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 Finals.

"If he continues to improve and closes the gap on the healing and also puts himself in a position to return safely to play, he'll be back out," Nash added.

"So we'll see. That's kind of up to his body and however long that takes."

Brooklyn's Durant is averaging 29.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game for the star-studded Nets this season.

The NBA's top-ranked defense will be aiming to slow down the leading offense when the New York Knicks make the short trip to play the Brooklyn Nets. 

The in-form Nets have won 12 of their previous 13 games to rise up the Eastern Conference, the impressive run of form leaving them just a game back of the Philadelphia 76ers, who lead the way in the standings. 

But while they were always expected to be near the summit, particularly following the arrival of James Harden from the Houston Rockets, the Knicks have been one of the surprise packages so far. 

A first playoff appearance since 2013 is a distinct possibility, with coach Tom Thibodeau building solid foundations for a franchise that has chopped and changed in the hope of finding success.

TOP PERFORMERS

New York Knicks - Julius Randle

Randle has excelled since moving to the Big Apple, leading to a first All-Star appearance this year. The seventh overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2014 averages 22.9 points and 11 rebounds through 39 games, as well as 5.7 assists.  

His 375 defensive rebounds puts him inside the top three in the league, while he has also contributed 31 steals as the Knicks have tightened up under Thibodeau.  

Having registered a season-low seven points as the Knicks returned from the All-Star break with a lopsided loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Randle bounced back with 26 in a resounding triumph over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.

Brooklyn Nets - James Harden

Since joining the Nets, Harden has recorded nine triple-doubles, the latest of them coming in a 100-95 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday that saw him score his team's final 10 points of the contest.  

While he was the focal point for Houston, the two-time MVP no longer has to carry the offensive burden in the same way for star-studded Brooklyn. He is shooting at a career-high 48.9 per cent from the field though, while his improved success from deep (39.7 per cent) has been noticeable.  

Harden has also demonstrated his ability as a passer too, his tally of 363 assists comfortably the most by any player, averaging out at a whopping 11 a game.

KEY BATTLE - A CASE FOR THE DEFENSE

The continued absence of Kevin Durant has not prevented the Nets from putting up points. They average 120.6 a game, while their combined field goal percentage of 49.9 is also the best by any team in the NBA.  

However, the Knicks have given up a league-low 105 points per outing. Randle and his fellow big men will look to dominate when it comes to rebounding, while the visitors will hope to get better at capitalising on turnovers – their average of 14 points when gaining possession in such circumstances ranks them 29th out of 30 teams.  

"It starts with our effort, our defense, those are the most important things," Immanuel Quickley, who has impressed in his rookie season, averaging 12.5 points, said ahead of the game. 

"We try to have that defensive mindset coming into games, then let everything take care of itself. The little things – defense, rebounding, energy, effort – give you a chance to win every night." 

HEAD TO HEAD 

These neighbours have met in 200 regular-season games, the Knicks narrowly leading 101-99 overall. 

Last season's four-game series was split 2-2, while the Nets prevailed 116-10 in January of this year, Durant – who has missed Brooklyn's last 11 games due to a heal issue – leading the way with 26 points in the absence of Kyrie Irving and with the Harden trade yet to be completed.  

Kevin Durant's return to play from a hamstring injury remains uncertain with Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash revealing he will undergo further scans.

Durant has not played for Brooklyn since the February 13 game against former team the Golden State Warriors due to the left hamstring injury.

Thursday's game with the Boston Celtics is set to be the 10th straight he has missed due to the injury.

Nash said Durant will undergo further scans which will dictate the next steps in his recovery.

"He hasn't played in a month," Nash said on Wednesday. "No matter what the scan says, there will still be an appropriate ramp-up time to make sure we put him in a position to finish the season strong.

"He's doing really well right now, and we all feel really positive about the direction he is going but we just need to be very cautious because he's a really important player for us."

Durant did not head to Atlanta for the All-Star break, instead remaining in Brooklyn to work with his physiotherapist.

The 32-year-old forward has participated in light on-court workouts but not high-speed running or drills with his team-mates.

Nash denied that the Achilles injury that Durant suffered in 2019 was related to his current problem.

"Through his history, through medical history and assessment, we don't feel like these two are related at all," Nash said.

Giannis Antetokounmpo added another MVP award to his growing collection as the Milwaukee Bucks superstar guided Team LeBron to a 170-150 victory over Team Durant in Sunday's All-Star Game.

The previous three All-Star contests had pitted LeBron James against Antetokounmpo in a mouth-watering Team LeBron versus Team Giannis matchup.

But James and Antetokounmpo joined forces for this year's 70th All-Star Game as the later fuelled Team LeBron to a comprehensive win in Atlanta.

Two-time reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo – drafted first by Los Angeles Lakers superstar James – led Team LeBron to a fourth consecutive All-Star triumph behind his game-high 35 points on 16-for-16 shooting.

Antetokounmpo joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to go 16-for-16 or better from the field in any game (regular season, playoffs or All-Star Game), per Stats Perform. Chamberlain accomplished the feat twice in the regular season in 1966-67 (18-for-18 and 16-for-16).

Antetokounmpo's performance earned All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP honours for the first time in his career.

Team LeBron – without Joel Embiid as he joined Philadelphia 76ers team-mate and Team Durant's Ben Simmons in sitting out due to COVID-19 contact tracing – entered the fourth quarter requiring only 24 points to seal victory under the Elam Ending rule.

Each of the first three quarters started with the score at 0-0 and lasted the standard 12 minutes, with the game clock turned off for the final period and a final target score set.

Team LeBron's Damian Lillard sealed the victory with a three-pointer – the Portland Trail Blazers guard posting 32 points.

Stephen Curry, who won the Three-Point Contest as All-Star proceedings were condensed into one day amid the coronavirus pandemic – had 28 points for Team LeBron, including eight three-pointers in 22 minutes.

Jaylen Brown was next best for Team LeBron, while James tallied four points, four assists, two rebounds and a block in 13 minutes of action and Chris Paul posted six points and 16 assists.

Bradley Beal (26), Kyrie Irving (24 and 12 assists), James Harden (21), Jayson Tatum (21), Donovan Mitchell (15), Zach Lavine (13) and Zion Williamson (10) all had double-digit points for Team Durant.

Blake Griffin has cleared free agency waivers and is set to join Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving on the Brooklyn Nets, according to reports.

The Athletic reported six-time All-Star Griffin was expected to link up with the NBA's latest 'big three' after leaving the lowly Detroit Pistons.

The 31-year-old, whose deal in Detroit was set to run until 2022, agreed a contract buyout with the Pistons earlier this week.

Griffin was tipped to join a contender, with the Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers mentioned alongside the Nets in initial reports.

But the star-studded Nets will seemingly get their man as they boost a roster that already includes three 2021 All-Stars.

The 24-13 Nets – second behind the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference – had been expected to add size after Jarrett Allen left in January as part of the blockbuster three-team trade that saw former MVP Harden arrive from the Houston Rockets.

Allen is now playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, where Andre Drummond – one mooted option – has sat out of action ahead of a potential move.

But Brooklyn are instead making Griffin their newest recruit, hoping he can stay fit for an extended period having played just 38 games since the start of last season.

Griffin has averaged 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 20 games this season for the Pistons (10-26), bottom in the east and only behind the Minnesota Timberwolves (7-29) for the worst record in the league.

Those numbers are down on his career average, including 8.7 boards per game, the same mark that Harden has reached for the Nets this season – a team-high among those still on the roster.

Brooklyn rank 14th in the league with 44.3 rebounds per game in 2020-21.

LeBron James selected two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo with his number one pick for the NBA All-Star Game, while Kevin Durant drafted Brooklyn Nets team-mate Kyrie Irving.

On Thursday, team captains James and Durant filled out their rosters for Sunday's All-Star contest in Atlanta.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James and Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo often go head-to-head in the All-Star Games as respective captains, but that is not the case this year.

Antetokounmpo will team up with James, who also selected Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and the Denver Nuggets' MVP candidate Nikola Jokic as starters.

Team LeBron's reserves are Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Chris Paul (Phoenix Suns), Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics), Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers) and Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz).

Durant – sidelined as he nurses a hamstring injury – turned to Brooklyn star Irving with the second overall pick in the All-Star draft.

MVP candidate and 76ers star Joel Embiid, Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, Washington Wizards sharpshooter Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum of the Celtics are the other starters for Team Durant.

The reserves drafted by Durant are James Harden (Nets), Devin Booker (Suns), Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Julius Randle (New York Knicks), Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic) and Donovan Mitchell (Jazz).

Team LeBron have won the past three All-Star Games after topping Team Giannis 157-155 in Chicago last year.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash was left frustrated after injuries contributed to the end of the team's eight-game winning streak in the NBA.

The short-handed Nets had their streak snapped following Saturday's 115-98 defeat against the Dallas Mavericks.

Kyrie Irving (shoulder) joined fellow star Kevin Durant (hamstring) – who missed his seventh successive game – on the sidelines and former MVP James Harden was unable to lift the Nets in the duo's absence.

Harden posted 29 points for the Nets in Brooklyn, where he only managed four following half-time.

Afterwards, first-year coach Nash said: "I think everyone's frustrated that we just had a little, just shorter obviously options tonight.

"You're missing two All-Star starters, but even beyond that, Jeff [Green] went out, Tyler [Johnson] couldn't play. It just stretched everything and put us in territory where a lot of guys hadn't had a lot of minutes together.

"So, frustrating, but that's the nature of this season. I've said that time and time again. We're gonna have all sorts of nights where we're gonna mix and match, play different things, and tonight I think we weren't quite good enough, but Dallas played well and one or two too many factors that went against us."

"We usually take James out first, not first, but we take him out early so we can get him back in with the second unit," Nash added. "Obviously tonight we couldn't do that. We were just standing a little it and like I said, a bunch of guys who hadn't played a lot, hadn't played a lot together, and Dallas played well. It's a good team.

"We weren't maybe quite up to it tonight and needed to make more shots, turn the all over less, and it wasn't to be."

On playing short-handed against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, Harden told reporters: "We fought in that first half. We were down double-digits, fought and cut it to four points at half-time.

"That second half, we just didn't have any legs on our entire team after losing a couple players. It was legs. Every time we made a run, they countered it and made a run. Credit to them. They played pretty well tonight. We just didn't have it.

"Throughout the course of a year, there's going to be games like that. We just chalk it up, prepare and get ready for San Antonio."

The Nets (22-13) are second in the Eastern Conference, half a game adrift of leaders the Philadelphia 76ers (22-12).

The Brooklyn Nets will be without star Kyrie Irving against the Dallas Mavericks due to "right shoulder injury recovery".

Brooklyn announced the absence of Irving ahead of Saturday's NBA clash with the Mavericks.

Seven-time All-Star and 2016 NBA champion Irving underwent shoulder surgery in March last year.

Irving has been averaging 27.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game for the star-studded Nets this season.

The Nets are already without former MVP Kevin Durant through the All-Star break.

A left hamstring injury means Durant will not return until after the All-Star Game, which takes place in Atlanta on March 7.

Durant has missed the Nets' last six games, though Brooklyn are in the midst of an eight-game winning streak.

The Nets (22-12) are second behind the Philadelphia 76ers (22-11) in the Eastern Conference.

Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis has replaced the injured Kevin Durant in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game.

Brooklyn Nets star Durant was ruled out as he deals with a hamstring strain.

Sabonis was called up in his place for the game, which will be played in Atlanta on March 7.

He is averaging 21.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists for the Pacers this season, earning his second straight All-Star selection.

While Sabonis will be selected with the reserves, Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum was added to the starter pool.

Kevin Durant will be out through the All-Star break, the Brooklyn Nets have revealed following recent scans on his injured left hamstring.

Durant has missed the Nets' last six games because of the issue, though his absence has not stopped Brooklyn from stretching their winning streak to eight games.

And the Nets revealed on Friday that he will not return until after the All-Star game, which will be held on March 8.

"After a routine follow-up MRI on his left hamstring, it was determined that Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant will require an additional recovery period that will result in him remaining out through the NBA All-Star break," a Nets statement read. 

"The latest images provided a clearer picture of the hamstring and while we are confident that Durant will return at full strength, this extra recovery time will allow him to perform at the level at which he has been playing this season once he returns.

"Durant will continue to undergo rehabilitation and will be re-assessed following the break."

In the 19 games in which he has featured this season, Durant is averaging 29 points per game, his highest tally since his MVP season with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2013-14.

Durant is shooting 52.4 per cent from the field and 43.4 per cent from three-point range.

He will miss games with the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets. Brooklyn's first game back from the All-Star break is against the Boston Celtics on March 11.

Named an All-Star for the 11th time in his decorated career, Indiana Pacers star Domantas Sabonis is expected to replace him in the game.

James Harden and Anthony Davis headline the reserves for next month's NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets will captain their respective sides – Team LeBron and Team Durant – in the 70th All-Star contest on March 7.

Nets guard and former MVP Harden has been named an All-Star for the ninth consecutive year as he headlines the Eastern Conference reserves, which also includes Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum (both Boston Celtics), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Julius Randle (New York Knicks) and Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic).

Brown, LaVine and Randle have earned All-Star selection for the first time in their careers.

Lakers star Davis is the pick of the Western Conference reserves, alongside 11-time All-Star Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns.

Joining the pair as reserves from the west are Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert (both Utah Jazz), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers) and Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans) – who is a first-time All-Star.

The All-Star Game rosters will be determined through a March 4 draft, where James and Durant will select from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves in each conference.

The 10 All-Star Game starters were unveiled last week, with Durant, Kyrie Irving (Nets) two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards) and Joel Embiid (76ers) in the Eastern Conference starter pool.

James, Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) and Kawhi Leonard (Clippers) are in the Western Conference starter pool.

76ers head coach Doc Rivers will coach Team Durant, while Quin Snyder of the Jazz will coach Team LeBron.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash expects Kevin Durant to return from injury before the NBA All-Star break.

Nets star Durant sat Tuesday's game against the Sacramento Kings – his fifth in succession – due to a left hamstring strain.

The All-Star Game takes place on March 7 and former MVP Durant has been named captain of the Eastern Conference team.

Brooklyn have four games remaining prior to the league halting on March 5, and Nash told reporters before the Kings clash: "We're just trying to monitor and be cautious.

"We definitely have kind of slowed things down in that respect, not putting any pressure on him, not trying to rush him back in any capacity and just make sure that we give him the right amount of time to be more than healed, to be strong and conditioned to come back to the team."

Durant is averaging 29.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game for the star-studded Nets this season.

The star-studded Nets (20-12) have won six consecutive games to be within half a game of Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers (20-11).

Kevin Durant will sit out his fourth consecutive NBA game when the Brooklyn Nets face the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.

Nets star Durant has sat out games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings due to a left hamstring strain.

The former NBA MVP also missed three games due to the league's health and safety protocols before returning for his reunion with the Golden State Warriors last week.

Speaking on Saturday, Nets head coach Steve Nash told reporters: "I don't have a timeline, but he's out for tomorrow. So still just trying to regain that strength and his rehabilitation.

"Like I keep saying, I don't think this is a long-term thing. But there are elements of maybe it being, taking a few more days than we thought or just being cautious.

"I think right now both are necessary. I don't think he's ready, I think he needs more time, but we're also definitely going to be cautious."

Durant is averaging 29.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game for the star-studded Nets this season.

The Nets (19-12) have won all three games in Durant's latest absence to be second in the Eastern Conference, behind the Philadelphia 76ers (21-10).

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant have been named as team captains for the 70th NBA All-Star game on March 7.

Serving as a team captain for the fourth straight year, James received the most votes to earn his 17th All-Star appearance, and is joined in the Western Conference starters pool by Golden State Warriors’ three-point specialist Stephen Curry, who is selected as an All-Star for the seventh time.

Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers is named an All-Star for the fifth time, while Denver Nuggets centre Nikola Jokic makes a third appearance, and the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic is called up for a second time to round off the starters pool from the west.

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