Nets at the crossroads of Kevin Durant with Kyrie Irving paired
It doesn’t seem real. It doesn’t seem possible. All the clamor, all the noise, all the drama, all the New-York-is-OUR-city-now rhetoric… and the Nets ended up with 74 games from the Kevin Durant/Kyrie Irving partnership. Seventy-four games.
It’s a bit like learning that the original run of “The Honeymooners” only lasted 39 episodes. Of course, “The Honeymooners” provided countless hours of happiness and laughter across those 39 episodes, 19½ hours of brilliant television. Ralph and Norton brought nothing but honor and good humor to the borough of Brooklyn.
Nothing but discomfort. Nothing but resentment. Nothing but an abundance of hope and a truly memorable basketball rarity. Seventy-four games. Seven playoff wins. A playoff win. And acres and acres of off-court slapstick that have somehow made the clown shoes the Nets have worn with rare exceptions since their inception day in 1967 seem even redder, even bigger and even more flexible than before.
It’s almost hard to be so incompetent.
But, then it’s the Nets. Irving is leaving now, and in addition to the hilarity of getting a few draft picks — the price of which won’t be enjoyed for two presidential election cycles from now — there’s the poignancy of Spencer’s return. Dinwiddie.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, Dinwiddie was one of the main Nets around which GM Sean Marks’ original plans were shown – friendly, hardworking and young talent, coached by scary Kenny Atkinson to the 76ers in the 2019 playoffs and seemed to offer genuine hope that Marks would eventually deliver what he promised: a complete, comprehensive rebuild focused on character and infrastructure.
For a time, the Nets were very much a feel-good story.
But then, a most amazing thing fell in Marks lap. Kevin Durant wanted to come to Brooklyn. And although Durant is recovering from a blown Achilles, he was – and is – the kind of player who blasts beautifully constructed plans at you. He would come to Brooklyn, not Manhattan. Who would say no to that?
Well… Marks probably would, given the gift of hindsight. Because getting Durant also meant signing Irving, a quintessential Faustian deal that, even in real time, seemed ominous. Later, the two would take on bonus titles as Marks’ willing assistants and a never-ending series of silliness would ensue.
In Durant’s case, it was easy to overlook because whenever his health allowed him to play, he was and has been a joy to watch. He is one of a handful of greatest players on the planet. He almost single-handedly delivered the Nets to the conference finals two years ago.
But his winger, Kyrie, was another issue.
Now that that cheating sidekick has fled the foxhole, been shipped off to Dallas, and that 74-game experience will forever be remembered as one of basketball’s all-time cautionary tales. And now the Nets have to ask some tough questions, and all of those answers will reveal what the next 5-10 years of the franchise will look like.
The Nets need to know, once and for all, where Durant’s heart lies. Is it there for the long term? Remember, Durant also demanded a trade last summer although he had to back off when it was obvious the Nets (wisely) weren’t going to get in there for 60 cents on the dollar — mostly because there had a sense of throwback to take one last (misguided) chance with their two stars. Both, it should be noted, have been great this year; they were both named All-Star Game starters.
And they played well as a team for a while, winning 18 out of 20 just before Durant suffered a knee injury.
But that, like much of the Durant/Irving partnership, was a mirage.
So now the Nets have to ask the tough question of their franchise’s centerpiece: does he want to continue playing the starring role? Does he believe Marks can rebuild an elite team on the fly? Will he find life without Kyrie liberating or intolerable? Anything short of a full commitment, Marks needs to see what happens now, as the next four days could well be one of the all-time standout auctions among NBA contenders if Durant is truly in. game.
The Nets eventually dealt Irving to try and restore some modicum of dignity and sanity to the franchise. Durant holds the secrets of what their next move will be. All this for 74 games. That’s a shame. Such a waste.