What could have been and was not is also what could not be and, indeed, has not been. It is one of the many ways, almost all negative, with which we can define the passage of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant for the Nets. Two players as talented as they are unpredictable who have ended up enslaving the Brooklyn franchise to exhaustion, that of the entity itself and that of the rest of the fans. A single round of playoffs surpassed in three and a half seasons, 1,314 days of calamitous, embarrassing and, in the end, disastrous adventure. Both players leave through the back door, each one to a different place, to put an end to months, years of nonsense. A project that they created, shaped and destroyed without anyone or anything stopping them, in a display of egomania and narcissism that has resulted in both strange and controversial episodes and that has resulted in poor basketball on the court, with fleeting flashes of talent and no chance at that ring they were going and didn’t even come close to conquering.
In three and a half seasons, Kyrie and Durant they have played 74 games together (47-27 record) out of 270 possible (all of normal season and without counting the 9 confrontations in the Orlando bubble, to which they did not even attend), 16 together with a James Harden whose time in Brooklyn was as unsuccessful as it was fleeting. That 13-3 record (5-1 in playoffs) next to the beard was the only one and if that we can take with us, although the simplest explanation is often the best: between comings and goings, physical problems and unexplained disappearances, Kyrie and Durant simply have not had continuity on the track. In this stretch of time, the point guard has lost 153 games and Durant, 151. A very big slab for a team that played everything on one card and delivered, to be made in a transfer to three (with Pacers and Rockets) with a Harden that they later lost, Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince and a second roundthus mortgaging the future of an entity that in 2013 did the same in the megatransfer in which they took over Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and that dragged that outrage sponsored by the tycoon Mikhail Prókrov until Kenny Atkinson began to create a culture of nothing and green shoots in a real dry land.
He was the coach that Durant and Kyrie kicked out behind the scenes (no games for one and only 20 for the other in their first season in Brooklyn). in 2020 before hiring Steve Nash and saying that the team was going to train him “among all”. And that was Nash, a mere puppet who obeyed the orders of an entourage who always had the upper hand and who was only capable of keeping the forms and peace with the shadow of Mike D’Antoni supporting the rookie coachwho dedicated himself exclusively to giving a huge number of minutes to his stars, doing what he could with the veterans (LaMarcus Aldrige, Blake Griffin…) and praying that things resolved themselves.
A few inches from glory?
The narrative always has a place in an NBA that lives from it, of the discourse inherent in a competition that has made constant debate a way of earning a living like any other. What could have happened usually generates a higher level of discussion than what really happened, and talking about situations that never occurred are constant arguments to put an end to events that have never been. However, this form of twisting reality has never had as much merit as in the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals: 4-3 for the Bucks with the seventh round resolved in New York, with Durant accompanied by a touched Harden and without Kyrie, injured after the third round and when things were going in the right direction: 2-1 up for the Nets after winning the first two home games and after overwhelming the Celtics (4-1) in the first round. That’s where Kyrie fell, when Harden had already been injured. The escort returned late and touched, but the point guard no longer did so. The record with the three healthy in playoffs it was 5-1. It was the missed opportunity. The only time the Nets have objectively resembled a title contender.
That seventh game was the epic, the one with the titanic struggle, the one with the lost opportunity. It was the year in which the Nets, with the project of Kyrie and Durant, won a round of playoffs. But they rowed to die on the shore: the tremendous effort of Durant, who played 53 minutes (there was overtime) in a game in which Nash only added 8 players to the rotation (counting a single second from Nic Claxton), and went to 48 points (17 of 36 from the field) with 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo (40 + 13 + 5) prevailed, Mike Budenholzer kept a job that he still occupies and those centimeters that Durant could not afford did not end the game: 109-109, with the star stepping on the line of three; 111-115 at the end, in extra time, and with the exhausted player. There was the lost ring of the Nets, with some Eastern finals in which unexpected winners like the Hawks were expected and an NBA Finals in which the Suns succumbed to the power of Milwaukee, not to that of the Brooklyn paraphernalia. That stayed by the wayside.
The past, the future
It was the only time the Nets dreamed of something bigger than their own self-destruction. The Kyrie scandal surfaced soon after: first, with disappearances that Nash couldn’t explain amid the coronavirus pandemic and showing up at his sister’s birthday, then with a rejection of the vaccine itself that unraveled the franchise and exasperated its owner, Joseph Tsai, as well as fed up a James Harden who requested the transfer and moved away from madness to embrace his ideal manager, Daryl Morey. After, with a disastrous series against the Celtics, who took revenge on the man who almost ended his project with a resounding 4-0. And, more recently, with the recommendation of a documentary based on an antisemitic book that He has already left the grace of flat earthing far behind and has turned the base into public enemy number 1. All this, with Durant putting himself in profile and both stars trying to force their way outwhich has now arrived, frustratingly in a summer that had everything, but nothing good.
Kyrie, who left the Cavs in his day to escape LeBron’s long shadow, wanted to join the Lakers and meet with him. King to be an even greater contradiction. And Tsai, in an exercise of pride, has prevented this variant and he’s gotten rid of two stars who have hijacked the franchise and left it at the mercy of two men who did nothing to keep their self-appointed coach (Steve Nash) and have been slightly more comfortable under the watchful eye. supervision and strong personality of Jacque Vaughn. There they have added a good record and began to resemble a good basketball team… until a new transfer request precipitated everything. The loot is more than succulent: Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, four first rounds without protection (2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029) and the right to exchange, if the Nets want, from the first round of 2028 have arrived for Durant. By Kyrie (alongside Markieff Morris), Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, a 2029 first round and two second rounds (2027 and 2029).
The Nets are now left with a young and promising team, with only one toxic product (Ben Simmons and his millionaire commitment until 2025: 35, 37 and 40 million this and the next two seasons), but many intermediate contracts and transferable material, in addition to rounds of the draft to make transfers. They take a huge loot and continue to aspire to play playoffs (33-22, fifth in the Eastern Conference) and they are left without stars, but with enormous development in terms of players like Finney-Smith, Bridges or Cam Johnson. They can move comfortably, wait to go after a big star in the future, or just let it all take its course and see what results show up. For the road they keep Royce O’Neale, Nic Claxton, Joe Harris… some handsome veteran and a lot of promising youngster. But above all else, the Nets have gotten rid of two men who have devoted themselves almost exclusively to scandal-mongering, front-page covers for reasons unrelated to basketball, and who have kidnapped everyone and everything around them. Now, they will be mavs and Suns who are in charge of managing these issues. And the Nets will be able to think about the future while they focus on enjoying a good rest.. And very deserved.