Nets face uncertainty again after agreeing to trade Kyrie Irving
Having superstar talent is the only surefire way to win a championship in the NBA It’s been nearly 20 years since a team won a championship without at least one superstar player, and it usually takes two.
So when Kyrie Irving, a virtuoso point guard, and Kevin Durant, one of the game’s smoothest scorers, picked the Nets in free agency in the summer of 2019, they seemed to sprinkle on the Nets the kind of pixie dust needed. turn a team into a real contender for the title. And so, for the past three and a half years, the Nets have firmly set their sights on a championship they believed the arrivals of Irving and Durant had put within reach.
But instead of taking incremental steps toward that goal, the Nets found their path had endless detours. They spent that time dealing with one distraction after another. They desperately tried to make the most of having two players as gifted as Durant and Irving, ditching draft picks and promising young players to acquire a third superstar and create one of the greatest collections of talent ever. seen in the league. They changed coaches and even disciplinary philosophies to try to make it work.
In recent months, the Nets seemed to have regained some semblance of stability. They were winning games, Irving seemed to be in good shape, and even Durant’s knee injury, while detrimental, wasn’t catastrophic.
But then their fragile peace crumbled again.
Irving requested a trade last week, and on Sunday the Nets agreed to a deal that will send him to the Dallas Mavericks, according to three people familiar with the deal who were not authorized to speak publicly because the trade is not official. In return, the Nets will receive two players, a first-round pick and multiple second-round picks. They never really got to enjoy the fruits of such a big free will score, and now their future is uncertain. In many ways, however, the team has lived a murky in-between life, even with the two superstars who came to see them four years ago.
Just three weeks ago, Irving praised the Nets’ cohesion. Reporters had asked him what would keep the Nets from struggling after Durant’s injury like they had last year when Durant was out.
“I’m constantly in the lineup, that helps,” Irving said. He said the team didn’t have anyone who was “halfway there” and added: “And there’s just one main focus on the big picture here.”
Irving appeared to be shooting James Harden, who spent about a year with the Nets before asking for a trade.
The Nets acquired Harden from Houston on a four-team trade in January 2021 as part of their effort to make the Durant and Irving experience work. They gave up a royal ransom to do so: The package included three first-round picks, four pick trades and Jarrett Allen, a talented young center who enjoyed success, including an All-Star selection, in Cleveland.
At first, trading seemed like a no-brainer. They were all eternal All Stars. Durant and Harden had won the league’s Most Valuable Player award. Durant and Irving had won championships. Who could beat this team? At least one story stated that they might be the greatest basketball team ever assembled.
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They took eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks to seven games in the conference semifinals in 2021 and looked set to dominate in the 2021-22 season.
But Irving barely played in the 2021-22 season due to his decision not to get a coronavirus shot. Harden seemed irritated by Irving’s inconsistent availability and once joked that he would vaccinate Irving himself.
But in an interview with FoxSports.com in December, Harden mentioned two other reasons that made his time in Brooklyn difficult: he was never completely healthy and he struggled with the organization.
“It was just that there was no structure,” Harden said. “And even superstars, they need structure. This is what allows us to be the best players and leaders for our respective organizations.
The Nets traded Harden in February 2022 and got Ben Simmons back, who in his 37 games with the Nets struggled to contribute.
After losing to the Celtics in 2022, Irving overestimated his power within the organization.
“When I say I’m here with Kev, I think that really implies that we run this franchise together alongside Joe and Sean,” Irving said, referring to team owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean. marks.
Marks was later asked if the Nets were committed to Irving.
“We’re looking for guys who want to come here and be part of something bigger than themselves, play selflessly, play team basketball and be available,” Marks said. “That goes for not just Kyrie but everyone here.”
The chaos was too much for Durant, who requested a trade in June and was given permission to seek one but couldn’t find one the Nets would agree to. He returned to the Nets, ready to move on.
Durant’s current position is uncertain. He expected to compete for championships. It’s possible that once healthy, he’ll lead the Nets to a strong finish this season. But it’s also fair to wonder, as teams in the league surely are, if Durant will try to get traded again.
If the Nets let it go this time, it will completely end another star-laden era that never really took off.