“Just watch how our squad comes out of this All-Star Break,” - Kyrie Irving
And watch I did, because I’m not one to make a fuss. And since the All-Star Break ended and this prophetic warning to all who dare traverse a basketball court, the Nets have gone 1-5.
Their one win was on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks, meaning it was one of the games Kyrie Irving was allowed to play in since he still isn’t vaccinated (but he really really cares about winning. Trust me). They won by three points and their losses since the All-Star Break have included a couple of blowouts, one against the Celtics and the other a 36-point loss against the Raptors. Both were at home where wins come easier for most teams.
On Sunday they played at the Celtics again, this time in Boston so Irving could play. And as an added bonus, Kevin Durant finally returned from injury. They very nearly had their complete roster and lost anyway. Granted, it took a 54-point performance from Jayson Tatum for the Celtics to pull it out, but regardless, the Nets keep losing. That loss dropped them below .500 and into what is essentially a three-way tie for 8th place in the Eastern Conference.
Since the Nets assembled this super team, it’s been a team of “what ifs.” What if they were healthy? What if the New York City mayor gets rid of the vaccine mandate? What if Ben Simmons plays a basketball game? This team will probably still be the betting favorite to win the East when the playoffs come around but I’m sick of the hypotheticals. I’m only going to believe this team can win a championship when I actually see it.
I acknowledge that on paper they have one of the most formidable rosters in recent memory, but we just haven’t gotten to see them at full strength. Sunday was just the fourth time Irving and Durant played together all season.
It’s honestly scary: the thought of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Jam
es Harden Ben Simmons all on the court at the same time. Who would be able to stop three of the most prolific scorers in league history two of the most prolific scorers in league history and another player who has been known to shoot the ball from time to time when they’re all healthy?
But there’s just too much working against them. Their recent losses at home have exposed their lack of depth. Ben Simmons hasn’t played in an NBA game in nearly a year so who knows what he’ll look like? Kevin Durant has played in 72 regular-season games in the last three seasons, which makes him injury prone even though seemingly no one thinks of him that way. It’s looking more and more likely that Irving will be allowed to play home games soon, but that’s far from guaranteed.
A million things need to go right for this team to be successful and it’s just much more likely that at least one thing will go wrong and derail them. When they lost in last year’s playoffs, their Big 3 were barely on the floor together as they took turns being injured. “But if they were healthy?” Well they weren’t.
The Nets front office assembled a team of Durant, a 7-footer coming off of an achilles injury, Irving, who has some injury history and is also a loon, and Harden, who was out of shape and doesn’t perform well in the playoffs. They knew there was a chance this mess could happen, so no one should’ve made excuses for them. Now Harden is gone, replaced by Simmons, whose problems as a player are plentiful, so don’t make excuses for them when they get eliminated this year.