For much of the season, the buzz around the league was that Kevin Durant was headed to the Knicks. As the season moved along and it became clear things were not right between Kyrie Irving and the Celtics, his name also became part of that New York rumors (turns out Irving and Durant had talked about teaming up before the season even tipped off).
In the end, they chose the crosstown Brooklyn Nets, not the Knicks.
It was the team culture GM Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson has built in Brooklyn — one that got the overachieving Nets to the playoffs last season — that tipped the scales, according to DeAndre Jordan. He should know, he spent 19 games with the Knicks at the end of last season. Durant and Irving took a little less money each (before incentives) to make room for Jordan to come to Brooklyn, too. DJ talked about all of it with Brian Lewis of the New York Post.
“Not to knock the culture the Knicks are creating, but we like what Kenny’s doing and Sean’s been awesome and the organization, from top to bottom, has been great,” Jordan said. “So you want to be a part of something like that, especially when you have a chance to play with other great players and build something.”
Fans often think about teams in a long-term, historical way, players (and agents) tend to go off what they have seen in the past few years. The reason the Nets — and, on the other coast, the Clippers — were able to win a recruiting battle against a bigger brand in the same city was the chance to win and the culture. The Nets built a foundation of good young players — Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and before he was traded D'Angelo Russell — as well as one of hard work and accountability. The Nets had built a situation players want to come to.
The Knicks need to do that to start drawing those big names.
Jordan was part of a potential contender in his time with the Clippers — the Lob City years — that was knocking on the door of the Finals but never came together in the way needed to win at the highest levels. There were a variety of reasons for that, but can Jordan bring what he learned from that experience to the Brooklyn locker room and get them to that higher level (likely next season, when Durant is back and closer to his old self)?
Atkinson will have a challenge this season dividing time between Jordan — the veteran beloved by the two biggest stars in the franchise — and the up-and-coming Jarrett Allen. In terms of pure basketball, the younger and more athletic Allen should get more run, but the politics of the locker room will make the experiment interesting.