The Brooklyn Nets have underwhelmed since 2019


Who would’ve thought on June 30, 2019, that the signing of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for the Brooklyn Nets would pan out as it has so far?

When Kevin Durant, arguably the most dominant scorer of all time, decided in the 2019 offseason that his 3-year, 2-time Finals MVP stint with Golden State was over, the Brooklyn Nets were able to win him over in free agency. Also making his way to the city was star point guard Kyrie Irving, who was looking to win championship ring number two in his career.

And, if this wasn’t enough, the Nets decided to give up a massive package for James Harden, an experiment that ended up failing big-time. This effort to turn Harden, Irving, and Durant into the league’s new “Big 3” was hindered much by injuries last year.

After an incredibly disappointing second-round exit last June (despite KD’s best efforts), the chips began to fall apart yet again heading into this season. It was announced that Kyrie was unable to play in homes games due to his vaccination status and James Harden was demanding a trade.

So, with that in mind, maybe a seven seed at the end of the day isn’t too bad at all. Though, there seemed to be unlimited potential with those three on the court at the same time; it’s unfortunate that NBA fans never got to see all of the gears spinning together.

Still, Brooklyn did a fair job of recovering. GM Sean Marks dealt Harden to a legitimate contender in Philadelphia, and Kyrie slowly regained the ability to play in home games. As a result, the past one or two months have been huge ones for him. 

It’s Boston versus Brooklyn, two versus seven, David vs. Goliath, whatever you want to call it. Celtic fans have not forgotten Kyrie’s time (and abrupt departure) from Boston and send a chorus of boos through the TD Garden every time he catches the ball. With these storylines and the pure talent between Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Durant, and Irving, it may be the most intriguing first-round series in recent history.

Tatum hit a buzzer-beater in game one to win by a single point in an epic game. Kyrie went off for 39 points, but Boston ultimately made the winning play. 

Now, game two is what seriously miffs me. I’ve been saying this ever since Durant and Harden arrived in Brooklyn; the two don’t necessarily play with the type of intensity that recent champions have possessed. 

When the Nets mounted a double-digit lead for much of the first three quarters, it was the perfect opportunity to steal a game in Boston before heading home for two in Brooklyn. Instead, KD and Kyrie flat-out disappeared. Durant may have had 27 points, but it took him 20 free-throw attempts to get there. He shot a whopping 4/17 from the field.

Still, that doesn’t even hold a candle to Kyrie’s abysmal performance. In 40 minutes, he put up just 10 points on 30% shooting. The Celtics went +17 in the second half and came back to take a 2-0 series lead.

Here lies the issue with this Brooklyn squad–the fate of the team’s playoff hopes is entirely on the shoulders of two aging, fatigued superstars. When the Nets’ main bench production is Goran Dragic and Seth Curry, the odds are stacked against them from the opening tip-off.

Plus, the organization basically sold its soul to acquire James Harden from Houston in 2020 and a year later, he was demanding a trade. Sure, the front office got some picks back from Philly when he left, but it almost makes me wonder if it should have said “we’re good enough” after attracting KD and Kyrie. 

That way, two very solid, young players in Caris Levert and Jarrett Allen would still be playing at the Barclays Center. And, if guys like Bruce Brown and Patty Mills progressed within the system, who knows where could’ve gone this year and last.

I don’t want to speak too soon because the series is still 2-0. Nevertheless, a lesson can be learned from this management mayhem that has, in all honesty, plagued Brooklyn for years now.

An NBA organization needs to know when to say “enough is enough”. It may have seemed like the Nets were stacking up with immense talent, but in reality, they were putting way too much pressure on themselves and depleting resources for the future.

You don’t need a Big 3 to win a ring. Find and develop your max-contract players, don’t push for others when you don’t need to, and keep the young, talented core young and talented.