The NBA offseason has been an adventure for the league and fans alike, and one of the biggest storylines comes from the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn is a contending team, and since star forward Kevin Durant and star guard Kyrie Irving’s arrival in 2019, fans had high expectations of this team. But all of that may be coming to an end.
At the start of the NBA’s free agency period, one of the first announcements involved one of the league’s biggest stars. St. Bonaventure alum, Adrian Wojnarowski, reported on Twitter that Durant requested a trade from the Nets, and another St. Bonaventure alum, Tim Bontemps wrote an article on Durant and unexpected the news.
“In a decision that could transform the NBA for years to come, franchise star Kevin Durant has requested a trade,” Bontemps wrote.
This announcement came two days after Irving announced his decision to opt into his current contract with the Nets. Irving’s player option gave him the chance to opt out of his contract and become a free agent, or remain with the Nets for another year. So, he will stay with the Nets for another year (while making nearly $37 million) and become an unrestricted free agent next year.
The pairing of Durant and Irving seemed like a match made in heaven, and when the illustrious scorer in James Harden joined them (through a trade), the Nets looked like the team to beat. But that was on paper. When the team stepped on the court together, it was a different story. The team failed to meet expectations and could not win a championship. What happened?
The Nets experiment did not work out, and this season was confirmation. This season had its share of ups and downs, and ultimately their season ended prematurely. And it raises a question, was their season (and the team itself) doomed from the start? Answering this question requires looking back towards the start of the season. So, without further ado, here is a look at the Nets season.
After the Milwaukee Bucks team sent them packing in 2020-21, the Nets were on a mission. The Bucks eliminated the Nets in a seven-game series, and Brooklyn were so close to victory, they could nearly taste it. Durant nearly sealed the win as he sank a jumper that nearly won the game for the Nets. At first glance, his shot looked like a 3-pointer that would have given the Nets the 110-109 lead over the Bucks (and the win). But Durant’s foot was on the 3-point line, which made it two points instead of three. The Nets and Bucks went into overtime, and despite 48 points from Durant, the Bucks won 120-119. The 2021-22 season was a chance to regroup from their previous season, but it started on the wrong foot.
After the state of New York announced their COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Nets GM Sean Marks announced that Irving (who was unvaccinated) could not play or practice until he was vaccinated.
“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant.” Marks said in a statement.
This decision caused Irving to miss most of the season, before returning on Jan. 5, 2022. At this time, Irving could only play away games. Then, when New York lifted their mandate, he was available for home games. Irving played in 29 games. Irving’s absence was only one of the many problems that plagued the Nets’ season. Durant sustained a sprained MCL in December and Harden battled a lingering hamstring injury. Then, Harden was eventually traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round picks.
This marked the end of the Nets “Big Three,” who only played 16 games in total as a trio. The experiment of Durant, Harden and Irving did not live up to the hype, and no one player is totally at fault. You win as a team and lose as a team. The trio came together in hopes of doing something special, and in the end, it resulted in Durant and Irving’s early playoff exit and Durant asking for a trade. As it stands, Durant remains with the Nets, but for how long?
The Nets are looking for the right assets as Wojnarowski told ESPN, “that may take time.”
And as the season grows closer, this will be a story to keep an eye on.