Net gains: High hopes in Brooklyn with Durant, Irving ready

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Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant shoots during pregame warmups before a preseason NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

NEW YORK – Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sent expectations soaring when they decided to come to Brooklyn.

The Nets can at last try to live up to them.

After waiting a year and a half since the free agency haul that transformed their franchise, the Nets finally got their superstar duo on the court in their preseason opener and needed just one quarter to show why hopes are so high.

Durant is healthy, Irving is healthy and together they look explosive, the biggest reason the Nets are considered one of the Eastern Conference favorites even with a rookie coach in Steve Nash.

“It’s a different show, it’s a different stage and it's a new beginning in terms of what we’re building and moving forward with the pieces we have here. And that includes 7-11, so get to know us,” Irving said, referring to their uniform numbers.

The good friends decided to team up in Brooklyn as free agents in 2019, but by then Durant was recovering from surgery to repair an Achilles tendon he had ruptured weeks earlier in the NBA Finals with Golden State. He sat out all last season, while Irving ended up limited to only 20 games because of a shoulder injury.

So it wasn't until the first game of this preseason when they got on the court together. In just 9 1/2 minutes, Durant and Irving outscored the Washington Wizards by themselves, combining for 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting. The Nets went 13 of 17 (76.5%) in the quarter in their debut under new Nash.

It won't always be so easy, but there will be nights when the Nets could look unstoppable.