MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 14: Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on October 14, 2022 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

The 2022-23 NBA season is about the begin for the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, and all eyes will be a number of key players who made plenty of noise following disappointing campaigns last season. Let’s take a look:

Kevin Durant – Brooklyn Nets
It was a rather weird off-season for Kevin Durant and the Nets. The former MVP requested a trade on June 30 after word came down that Brooklyn had tried and failed to trade teammate Kyrie Irving, only to have Irving accept his player option for ’22-23.  A disgruntled Durant created a cloud over most of the Nets off-season this summer as many wondered whether Durant would even remain in Brooklyn, and if so would he be happy here. That is still a question, obviously. Durant and the Nets eventually made peace in August, but the questions will linger. If the Nets stumble, or have a period of struggles and strife, will Durant and, or Irving cause a raucous? It remains to be seen.

Kyrie Irving – Brooklyn Nets 

That leads us to Irving, who had one of the most bizarre seasons in recent memory last year. He missed most of the season due to a refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19, combined with New York’s vaccine mandate policies which helped keep Irving sidelined. Once the Nets started to struggle, Brooklyn felt compelled to bring Irving back, but only as a part time player, since New York’s mandates prevented him from playing in home games. By April Mayor Eric Adams lifted the ban, and Irving was able to play out the string and the postseason at Barclays Center. Overall, he played in only 29 games and averaged 27.4 points per game; in sum, Irving was very effective when he was able to play. However once the season ended, Irving presented a list of teams he would rather play for, but Brooklyn couldn’t find a match. Irving agreed to his player option and is in his final year of a four-year, $136.4 million contract. Like Durant, if things go south for the Nets, how long will Irving play a good solider?

Ben Simmons – Brooklyn Nets

Simmons replaces James Harden as the third superstar with a major question mark with the Nets.  Ironically Harden and Simmons were swapped for one another in a blockbuster deal last season between the Nets and 76ers. Simmons was not healthy – both physically (back) and mentally. He was away from the court for a year-and-a-half, and the Sixers felt it was time to move on. The Nets are hoping Simmons can return to the former All Star player he once was. In his career, Simmons averages 15.9 points per game.

The Nets open their season tonight against the New Orleans Pelicans from Barclays Center.

Knicks Jalen Brunson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – OCTOBER 12: Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks dribbles the ball during the game against the Indiana Pacers on May 12, 2022 at Gainsbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

Meanwhile the Knicks are coming a hugely disappointing 2021-22 campaign. After stunning most and making it to the playoffs during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign, they took a step backwards.

Julius Randle – New York Knicks.

Randle took a lot of the heat from fans for a thumbs down gesture in January. They never let him forget it. There was even an instance where it appeared Randle was having a disagreement with one of the Knicks coaches on the sideline during a game. In short it was  a rough year for a player who became beloved just months earlier during the ’20-’21 campaign.  Randle was was awarded a $117 million extension before last season, and the numbers only got worse. His points per game dropped from 24 ppg in ’20-21 to 20 ppg last season. He also saw his dependability suffer, as he shot only 41 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the free throw line. The season prior, he was hitting on 46 percent of his shot and 81 percent on his free throws.  Randle needs a bounce back year, and he also needs someone like Jalen Brunson to help take the heat off.

Jalen Brunson – New York Knicks

That leads us to Brunson, whom the Knicks signed to a four-year $104 million contract in the off-season. Brunson was one of two players the Knicks coveted in the off-season. The other being New York native Donovan Mitchell, whom the Knicks tried to acquire from Utah, however the Jazz flipped Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavs in a blockbuster deal. So all the Knicks have to show for this off-season is Brunson.

The Knicks desperately needed a steady presence at point guard and the 26-year old Brunson fits the mold. He averaged 16.3 points per game, and was first among NBA point guards in field goal percentage at 50.2 percent.  If Brunson can move this Knicks offense to the liking of Head Coach Tom Thibodeaux, the Knicks could rebound this season and get back into contention.

The Knicks open their season tonight on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies.