Drama Is Never Too Far Away From the Brooklyn Netsby Prime Time Sports Talk August 26, 2022 0 comments
There was certainly plenty of drama surrounding the Nets last season.
Kyrie Irving’s refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine made him a part-time player for a good chunk of the campaign. Kevin Durant’s knee injury knocked him out for a while. James Harden forced his way off the team after struggling to start the season. Ben Simmons didn’t play a single game after being traded to Brooklyn because of a back problem. Joe Harris only played 14 games because of ankle surgery. And on and on it went for these Brooklyn Nets.
It was all capped off with a clean sweep defeat to the Boston Celtics in the playoffs. Issues with the Brooklyn Nets don’t appear to be over there either. After Durant dropped his bomb by offering the Nets’ ownership an ultimatum about coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks, it appears Irving was also keen to leave. The Nets are looking completely out of control, but can they put the pieces back together? And can they do it in time to mount a challenge for a title?
Whilst Durant’s request is the most concerning issue as of this moment for the Nets, Brooklyn had to weather injuries, James Harden’s trade request and other setbacks along the way. But if we traced it back far enough to the beginning of the season, Irving’s decision to not get the vaccine set the tone that has plagued them ever since and stumbled the team out of the gate. His hard-line stance combined with New York’s vaccine mandate meant he would miss the majority of Brooklyn’s home games, the implications of which proved to be disastrous.
The Nets suffered the consequences, getting off to a rocky start that left them hovering around .500 for the rest of the regular season. He has appeared in just 103 of a possible 226 games in his three-year tenure, and 29 of 82 games last season effectively by choice. This meant that Durant had to shoulder more responsibility which was compounded by the departure of one of their best scorers in James Harden who left after feeling unenthused by what was going on both on the court and behind-the-scenes. This forced the reluctant trade of Harden for Simmons who did not play at all for them because of a significant back injury and mental health concerns. His walk out in the postseason series with the Celtics was not well-received by his teammates either.
The team is lacking coherence and cohesion in a big way as things are and speculation has been mounting of potential departures for Durant and Irving ever since season’s end. Durant requested a trade from the organization, stirring the pot and leaving fans in shock with his decision. But, now Kevin Durant has reportedly agreed to stay with the Nets, things are looking up. The Nets have endured a lot but will comfort themselves with the fact that as it stands they’ll return next fall with the greatest scorer in the game and two other All-NBA bolters.
On talent alone, the Nets could plausibly carve a path to the Finals next season. But as the Nets themselves just demonstrated, talent without coherence or commitment is a road to nowhere. NY sportsbooks have the Nets +700 to win their first NBA championship, and with seemingly everyone unhappy behind-the-scenes their time as a contender could already be over. They desperately need to fix the off-court issues if they are to make any progress in 2023.
It goes without saying that off the court, last season couldn’t have gone much worse for the Nets. There seems to be no end in sight to the turmoil in the dressing room, however, it wasn’t all doom and gloom when they got on the court. Yes, it all mercifully ended in a clean sweep defeat to Boston but we should not forget the supreme aspirations this team had come the start of last year, and with good reason. Nash’s team kept their streak of playoffs appearances intact, making the postseason for the eighth time since the franchise moved to Brooklyn in 2014. They finished with a record of 44-38 and ended up seventh in the NBA Eastern Conference and given what we know about the discontent swelling in the locker room, that’s not a bad return. They struggled throughout the year with their defense but managed to win a play-in tournament to get into the playoffs.
So, whilst there are still plenty of things that need fixing from top to bottom, they clearly have the tools to compete, for the time being at least. Despite his distinct lack of faith in the coaching staff in New York, Durant has not let it affect his game on the court. If not for his MCL injury earlier in the regular season, the 12-time All-Star would have been in the MVP conversation; he was sensational for the Nets in the early part of the 2021-22 regular season and had Brooklyn near the top of the Eastern Conference prior to his absence. He just missed becoming the first Nets player in franchise history to average 30 points per game for a season and was matching some of his career-high stats before his knee derailed that momentum. If he had stayed healthy the team would’ve inevitably had an easier run to the playoffs and might have gone further as a result, but unfortunately for Nets fans, it did not unfold that way.
Durant is clearly unhappy but still has four years left on his multi-million dollar deal. Irving appears to following his example, Simmons appears to have thrown in the towel, and Harden already left in February after being similarly disgruntled.
But even so, they still put in some notable performances to make the postseason, came out with a winning record despite significant injuries to key players, and their biggest asset (Durant) was putting in some of his best numbers in the NBA to date.
The dark cloud is circling over that locker room, but they still have the talent to compete with the very best in the league, and if they can turn it around this off-season then they are more than capable of chasing down a title.
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