Two stars, no team: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s Brooklyn Nets went straight into the wall

Imagine a small door with huge spotlights shining on it. This is where the Brooklyn Nets just left the NBA playoffs, overwhelmed in four sets in the 1st round by the Boston Celtics, after yet another defeat on Monday evening, at home (112-116). The New York squad is the only one not to have won a game in these playoffs. A terrible humiliation for a franchise that nevertheless had the ambition to win the first title in its history. The fall is all the more violent.

So the corpse is still hot but the autopsy has been waiting wisely for several weeks, even for several months, from this drop in the rankings – 11 consecutive losses – of February through the twists around Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status. Injuries, tensions, controversies … there are many elements that have come to pollute the season of the Nets, concluded by this sweep. To leave traces. Even at the press conference, Kevin Durant seemed on the edge of his rope, running out of energy to explain or search for the reasons for this bitter failure.

He is obviously tired. KD made himself available for Team USA last summer. A three-week preparation followed by a trip to Japan with the Olympic Games where he struggled to bring back a gold medal. He later found himself forced to play 37 minutes per game – at the age of 33 and two years after an Achilles tendon rupture – because his teammate and best friend refused to be vaccinated against. COVID-19. Inevitably, he ended up getting injured. And as soon as he got back, he had to fill up to send his team to the playoffs. Once qualified, Durant had no respite. 176 minutes out of 192 possible in the four games. Impossible to extract it, otherwise he will take water.


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They’re bound to be tired: Kyrie fasts every day and Kevin has to play more than 40 minutes per game after being out for six or seven weeks“, Steve Nash confided on his best players after Game 3. An argument still advanced after the elimination of Brooklyn, but with a (important) nuance: this time, Nash, Durant and Irving have proposed the export as the first factor of tiredness.”Everyone in the organization knows what we’ve been through“, notes KD. Kyrie talks to him”from the center of attention of the media race.“There, perhaps even without knowing it, they finally put their finger on the beginning of the problem, but without reading it correctly.

Kevin Durant vs Jayson Tatum, on the Nets logo – 25/04/2022

Credit: Getty Images

Talent but no chemistry, no genius

If the Nets – and in particular Irving – have consistently been the center of attention… it’s first by choice. It all starts with the decision of the All-Star leader not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 when New York rules required at least one dose to get into the big precincts of the city, of which the Barclays Center is a part. Unsuitable for home games, the 30-year-old was sidelined from his franchise until they felt compelled to bring him back to relieve Durant.

The person concerned felt that he was being targeted, but it was above all the consequences of his decision. He also made his debut in mea culpa after Race 4: “I feel like I let the team down at a time when I wasn’t allowed to play. I never wanted to be the center of attention, but I think it was a distraction for us.” Too late.

This circus inflated everyone except Durant, who continued to defend his partner tooth and nail. James Harden, preferred to throw in the towel and force the start mid-season, heading to Philadelphia, a direct competitor, just a year after doing the same in Houston. “There was no continuity“, regrets the number 7 of the Nets. He actually felt grounded. No consistency. No chemistry.

Kevin Durant during Atlanta Hawks – Brooklyn Nets in the NBA on April 2, 2022

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The Celtics have certainly defended very well on the best striker in the world, limited to 26 points on 39% on shots and 33% on triples with more than 5 ball losses per game. But they also took advantage of a tactical nothing. A poor and stereotyped game, as predictable as possible with isolations mainly played by the two stars. Brooklyn also has no shortage of talent in addition to its two future Hall Of Famers.

Four other players have averaged over 10 points in the series. But there was no connection between the different members of the five majors. No collective movement, or almost. And that, against a real team like Boston, you pay in cash. Yet with Steve Nash on the bench, the master of the Suns of the early 2000s, a collective power with selfless and constantly moving players, precursors of modern basketball. There was no genius in his decision making. Few variants.

Stars but no culture, no respect

The coach often acts as a scapegoat, but the stars shouldn’t be blameless in Brooklyn. It is time for the organization to make them face their responsibilities. Because so far they have had all the rights. And only Kevin Durant returned the favor by showing himself up to it. Others do not assume their status, or they do not understand it.

Kyrie Irving disappointed her teammates. Ben Simmons, too, more or less. The Australian arrived in February vowing to go through an entire process to return to competition. He hasn’t played yet. James Harden abandoned ship with the feeling that he was about to sink. There is a real cultural problem in this franchise. In trouble for years, the Nets have taken the time to rebuild a real hard core, focusing on work, to finally have a chance to convince strong individuals to join them.

Durant and Irving took the bait and turned it all upside down, questioning management methods and staff as soon as they arrived. To the point where Kenny Atkinson preferred to resign. Management gave in. The bet could really be worth it: the stars are the first ingredient for a team aiming for the title. Even the Celtics wouldn’t win without Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. But the Nets need to understand that it’s deeper.

Durant Irving

Credit: Getty Images

When I say I’m here with Kev, I really see it as the fact that we have to lead this franchise alongside Joe (Tsai, the owner) and Sean (Marks, the GM) “, says Irving for example. On the one hand, it is true, they will be the faces of this organization. Except that there is a hierarchy to respect. What an irony for Sean Marks, who passed from Spurs, where Tim Duncan he let himself be scolded violently by Gregg Popovich so that all his teammates walked straight.

A few months ago, Marcus Smart, a key man in the Celtics locker room without being a star, publicly lashed out at Tatum and Brown to get them to drop the ball more. Boston has finally finished second in the East by dominating the league since the beginning of 2022. For the Nets it’s the opposite: everyone does what they want, especially Irving. No one is called to order. Individuals rank above the franchise. And the difference is huge, the proof with this 4-0. A score that reflects a certain logic. Maybe even a little justice. If only basketball.


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