Take two for Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Ky….well, the third member of Brooklyn’s big trio is on a leave of absence, and maybe that is part of the reason for the Nets’ struggles early on this season.
After Wednesday night’s home loss to the Miami Heat, 106-93, Durant sat down in front of the media and did a little straight shooting when asked what this team is missing.
“I know what you want me to say (chuckling). Yeah, we do miss Kyrie. We do. He’s part of our team. But like I said, we’ve been generating great shots. We’ve been getting in the paint. We just gotta knock them down.”
I think everyone can see how much the Nets miss Kyrie Irving’s 27 points per game, but these struggles go deeper than Irving’s unavailability. Miami outrebounded Brooklyn by 20 in Wednesday night’s game, 62-42. The Heat grabbed 17 boards on the offensive end of the court. The Nets cannot continue to give up that many second-chance scoring opportunities if they expect to get back on track.
If the Nets were an NFL team, we’d have the shovels out, ready to bury them alive for starting the season with a 2-3 record. Luckily the Nets have 77 more chances to right this ship. Regardless of their struggles, the Nets are still a favorite in the Eastern Conference. No one in their right mind expects this team to struggle this badly all season.
Aside from their lack of size and guys that can hit the boards, Harden is also riding the struggle bus to and from games so far. The beard is averaging just 16.6ppg through the first five, which is down from 24.6ppg last season. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but the gap in Harden’s scoring has been attributed to the NBA cracking down on players who draw cheap fouls by jumping into defenders.
Harden has made a career off getting to the free-throw line seemingly 100 times a game. His average free throw attempts per game have been cut by more than half through the first five games of the year. Last season, he got to the charity stripe 7.3 times a game, and now that’s down to 3. That’s the lowest they’ve been his rookie year in Oklahoma City. Harden’s a great player, so I expect him to jump out of this funk soon. He’s got to; otherwise, it’s going to be a long season in Brooklyn.
I don’t know if the Nets are just taking things slowly with LaMarcus Aldridge, but eventually, they’re going to need to let him loose on the court. He’s averaging 18 minutes per game and only played 12 against the Heat. Brooklyn will have to ramp it up with Aldridge soon if the team continues to hover near .500.
And where the hell is Blake Griffin? I mean, he’s on the court, but you’d barely know it. Playing 20 minutes a night, scoring 4.5ppg and 5.3rpg. With Kyrie out, everybody needs to step up in Brooklyn. It can’t just be the KD show all year. The goal is winning a championship, and Durant doing everything will not help them accomplish that. It’s time for Steve Nash to show us his coaching chops and do some adjusting to get his guys going. The Nets better hope Nash is up to the task because, if he’s not, and capable of doing this. If he can’t, this Nets big three experiment may end up being a short-term deal, and I know that’s not what the front office had in mind when they began this journey a couple of years ago.