The New York Knicks were forced to face a harsh reality Sunday afternoon: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are indeed coming to the Big Apple, but it won’t be to play for the city’s marquee franchise.

After months of rumors that the two All-Stars were preparing to team up and save the Knicks, Durant and Irving have instead agreed to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn will add two of the best free agents on the market and likely become championship contenders for years to come, while New York is left scrambling to add average players to arguably the NBA’s worst roster.

The Knicks created the salary cap space necessary to acquire Durant and Irving by trading Kristaps Porzingis and a couple of undesirable contracts to the Dallas Mavericks in January. It was a move that signaled New York believed Durant, at the very least, had all but guaranteed the Knicks he was on his way.

During the season, virtually every insider seemed to believe New York had the inside track on Durant. Then Durant ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals and cast a shadow of doubt over what might happen during his impending free agency.

According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, the Knicks were not interested in giving Durant a full four-year max contract after he suffered a potentially career-altering injury that will likely cost him all of next season. That ultimately didn’t matter, since the superstar never even gave New York a chance to make him an offer.

There have been reports for months that Durant and Irving planned to team up this summer. Both players wanted to be in New York. Durant moved his company into a New York City office and Irving is a New Jersey native.

Durant seemingly once preferred the Knicks. Irving grew up a Nets fans and has reportedly had his eyes on them for weeks. Considering the state of the two franchises, Brooklyn ultimately had the edge.

The Nets made the playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s No.6 seed this past season. With a 42-40 record, Brooklyn finished 25 games ahead of New York in the standings. The Knicks won fewer games than any team in the NBA, and their core of young players leaves much to be desired.

With Durant set to miss next season, adding Irving to the Knicks probably wouldn’t have gotten the team to the 2020 playoffs. The Nets’ roster is certainly good enough to get back to the postseason as Durant watches from the bench all year.

Nets’ guard Caris LeVert might be a future All-Star. Spencer Dinwiddie will come off the bench after averaging 16.4 points and 4.6 assists per game last season. Joe Harris just led the NBA in three-point percentage. Jarrett Allen is one of the league’s best young bigs, having averaged 10.9 points 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in his second NBA season.

Much has been made about Brooklyn’s culture. Players have bought into head coach Kenny Atkinson’s system. The team plays hard consistently. The Nets quickly became an attractive option for players around the league.

The only culture at Madison Square Garden is one of losing. The Knicks tanked all of last season, failing to win more than 32 games for the fifth straight year. New York is where Brooklyn was a few seasons ago, bottoming out and at the start of what should be a long rebuild.

The Knicks hoped the lure of MSG would speed up the process, taking them from the league’s worst team to a contender in one season. Owner James Dolan told ESPN’s Michael Kay in March that the organization was made aware top free agents wanted to play for New York.

Nothing seemed to go right for the Knicks from that point forward.

The Knicks failed to win the draft lottery and the chance to land Zion Williamson. Durant tore his Achilles. New York was unable to trade for Anthony Davis, who went to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now, Durant and Irving are headed to Brooklyn, and the Knicks will be forced to watch the Nets compete for titles as they continue to be the NBA’s laughingstock just a few miles away.

Kyrie Irving Kevin Durant
Kyrie Irving #11 and Kevin Durant #25 of Team LeBron laugh during practice for the 2018 NBA All-Star game at the Verizon Up Arena at LACC on February 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images