NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The hottest free agents in the NBA are coming to New York, but they won’t be playing at Madison Square Garden.
The move has Knicks management apologizing to fans, who were practically celebrating once it became obvious the team was clearing salary cap space to sign the two big-name free agents this offseason.
But the Nets swooped in and changed that narrative.
Durant, who became an unrestricted free agent after deciding not to exercise his $31.5 million contract option with the Golden State Warriors, is a two-time NBA Finals MVP, but he tore his Achilles’ in Game 5 of the championship round against Toronto. He is expected to miss all of next season, but that didn’t scare the Nets, who agreed to a four-year deal worth $164 million with the 10-time All-Star.
Nets fans were understandably over the moon hearing the news.
“I feel like Brooklyn Nets is kind of like the underdog team, so that would be amazing,” Shauna Weekes of Crown Heights told CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis.
“I’m not really a Brooklyn fan, but I think this is gonna make me a Brooklyn fan just having two really amazing players,” another fan said.
Most NBA experts believe Durant should return to MVP form once he recovers from surgery.
Irving left the Boston Celtics for a four-year contract with the Nets that’s reportedly worth $141 million.
While it was assumed the combo chose Brooklyn because the Nets have more pieces to win, that might not be the only reason. Reports are surfacing that the Knicks didn’t offer Durant a max contract and he didn’t take a meeting with them.
Another addition, DeAndre Jordan, is changing New York teams from the Knicks to the Nets.
“Maybe it’s an indication that bottoming out like the Knicks did last year, winning 17 games, being the worst team in the league, was not the best way to go into free agency. The Nets chose a different path. They were competitive. They were able to put together a team that was both interesting and still future-minded. The Knicks couldn’t offer that,” NBA writer Mike Vorkunov told CBS2. “I think most of all, and this is me projecting based on history, but players want to win immediately, and the Knicks couldn’t offer that to them.”
Knicks President Steve Mills released a statement, saying, “While we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight’s news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through the draft, targeted free agents and continuing to build around our core of young players.”
Knicks fans were understandably downtrodden by the Nets’ power moves, but tried to look on the bright side.
“They still have a bright future,” said Angel Ramos, who lives right by Barclays Center. “They still have young kids over there that can play, so I guess we’ll see what happens now.”
“I’m definitely deflated, but you know what? This is us. We’re Knicks fans. We’re not gonna go to the Nets. That’s just who we are. We’re always gonna be true to ourselves, true to New York, always be a Knicks fan no matter what we do,” added Adam Teichholz of Williamsburg.
The Knicks have added five free agents since the window opened Sunday night — young power forwards Julius Randle, Bobby Portis and Reggie Bullock, plus veteran forward Taj Gibson and vet shooting guard Wayne Ellington. All contracts will become official on Saturday.
Brooklyn finished 42-40 this season and lost in the first round of the playoffs, but appears to be a team to fear going forward.