A pouting James Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets nearly two years ago to the day. Way back in January 2021, before the COVID vaccine card went mainstream, the newest super team was Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving. It is now Super Bowl week 2023. Some of you all have vaccine cards stamped like a well-traveled passport. Irving still hasn’t been vaccinated, and he’s also no longer a Net. Harden was traded at the deadline last year and while most of New York was asleep with no intention of caring about the Nets in the morning, Durant was traded to the Phoenix Suns.
One redeemable quality that the NBA has over the NFL is that it is much better at ridding itself of embarrassing team owners. Dan Snyder still owns the Washington football franchise after the NFL decided to have the results of an independent investigation about his toxic workplace delivered orally to Commissioner Roger Goodell in the summer of 2021. In September 2022, the NBA released to the public the findings of an independent investigation into Robert Sarver’s toxic workplace. On Feb. 7, 2023, a deal for Mat Ishiba to purchase the Suns and the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA was completed.
A day later he acquired one of the best players in the history of the NBA. The Suns traded Cam Johnson, ironman Mikal Bridges (here is your prize for never missing a game), Jae Crowder, and four unprotected first-round picks to the Nets for Durant and T.J. Warren.
Back to the Nets. Fetty Wap would like some notes on how to flame out this quickly. For the second time in their 11 seasons in Brooklyn, the Nets’ version of a “super team,” was only able to win one playoff round as a group.
It would have been unwise to expect a championship from the first version of the Brooklyn Nets. Mikhail Prokhorov spent millions of dollars and years of draft capital to acquire past their prime veterans Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, and Paul Pierce. They beat the Toronto Raptors in a seven-game first-round series in 2014, and then lost to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in five.
In 2019 Prokhorov sold the final 51 percent share of the Nets to Joe Tsai who had bought the other 49 percent in 2018. In the weeks leading up to the completion of the sale, the Nets signed Irving, Durant who had ruptured an Achilles tendon in the NBA Finals, and DeAndre Jordan because three for completion. Duh.
Durant took the floor for the Nets three days before Christmas in 2020. A few weeks later the Nets traded for Harden. They were a favorite heading into the 2021 NBA Playoffs. The Nets rolled the Boston Celtics in the first round and didn’t go out in the second round nearly as easily as the Pierce and Garnett 2014 team did. Even with injuries to Harden and Irving, the Nets still pushed the eventual NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks to seven games.
This incarnation of the Nets would go on to never win another playoff game together. Irving missed half of the subsequent season because of his vaccine opposition, and Harden wanted out before the next trade deadline. This “Big Three” shared a court for a grand total of 16 games, including the playoffs.
Currently, the most newsworthy name on the Nets’ roster is Cam Thomas. At least his 40 or more points in three consecutive games leaves one interesting on-court discussion in Brooklyn.
The Nets’ first attempt at rapid team building was a reasonable failure. In a new city and a new building, the Nets needed to build some buzz so they wouldn’t end up like New York’s Clippers. But years later they actually assembled a championship-caliber team. A team with three stars that ended up not playing a full season’s worth of NFL games together.
What a mess these last four seasons have been. If I was Kenny Atkinson I would have stayed in Golden State too after recently being skunked by this franchise. It’s the Nets’ 11th season in New York and not only are they still second-place in fan interest in the tri-state area, but they also appear to be the second-best run franchise as well. And their only competition is James Dolan.
Maybe Joe Tsai can build a better band — JT and the Flameouts.