When the NBA schedule dropped Thursday, Nets fans’ eyes surely went straight to two matchups: reunions with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
And both of their former superstars — who demanded trades last season — are back in Brooklyn a week apart.
Durant makes his return on Jan. 31 with his high-powered Phoenix Suns, and Irving comes back to Brooklyn on Feb. 6 with the Dallas Mavericks.
Both will be emotionally charged in Barclays Center.
After both superstars joined the Nets in 2019, titles were expected.
Instead there were troubles, from Durant’s injuries limiting him to just 129 games to Irving’s controversies — missing two-thirds of 2021-22 due to his refusal to get vaccinated, and getting suspended last season for promoting an anti-Semitic movie.
Irving forced a trade in February, and Durant followed out the door just days later, taking the Nets’ championship hopes with him.
The All-Stars’ returns will be the most-hyped and scrutinized parts of the schedule — although far from the only highlights.
Brooklyn’s slate includes the NBA Paris Game 2024, a regular-season tilt against Cleveland on Jan. 11 (2 p.m. Eastern, NBA TV).
With their stars gone and their ceiling lowered, the Nets are on national television just 11 times, half a dozen of those being on NBA TV.
They were predictably also left off the Christmas Day lineup; but they do have a holiday game, hosting the NBA finalist Miami Heat on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Barclays Center.
Brooklyn had 26 games on ABC, ESPN or TNT two years ago, and 13 last season — two of which were dumped after the Durant and Irving trades.
This season it’s down to just five. Sign of the times.
The departure of those superstars brought back the foundation for the Nets’ retooling (including a trove of first-round draft picks).
Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson make their return to Phoenix on Dec. 13, facing off against Durant.
Dorian Finney-Smith and Spencer Dinwiddie — in his second tour of duty with the Nets — play at Dallas in the second game of the season on Oct. 27.
Brooklyn opens the season two nights earlier at home against the visiting Cavaliers.
Longtime Net Joe Harris returns to Barclays on Dec. 23, a day after the Nets host the defending-champion Nuggets at 7:30 p.m. on NBA TV.
Generational rookie Victor Wembanyama makes his Brooklyn debut on Feb. 10 with the Spurs.
LeBron James and the Lakers visit on March 31.