Following a first-round playoff exit in 2019, the Brooklyn Nets have been about to get a dramatic makeover. Shortly after Independence Day that 12 months, they acquired three All-Stars in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and DeAndre Jordan. Though Durant was coming off of a devastating damage, the plans for an excellent workforce have been put into movement.
Quick ahead to January 13 after they landed James Harden in a commerce with the Houston Rockets, and many individuals have been already anointing them champions. The deal did value them quite a lot of their depth although, and that turned a serious concern for the workforce as they handled accidents and unusual absences with a few of their gamers.
The Nets haven’t been capable of see their “large three” on the ground very a lot. Irving performed simply 20 video games in his first 12 months in Brooklyn, whereas Durant missed the whole season rehabbing from his damage. Each Durant and Harden have performed 62 video games with Brooklyn, and whereas Irving has but to play this season, that’s about to alter.
Simply in: All-NBA star Kyrie Irving has began course of to return to the Brooklyn Nets, sources inform @TheAthletic @Stadium. Irving is ramping up, has begun workforce COVID-19 testing, and his season debut date continues to be to be decided.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 17, 2021
With none of those gamers having logged 75 video games over the course of three seasons, the identification of this workforce continues to be a little bit of a query mark. After a sluggish begin to open the season, the Nets now personal the highest spot within the East after successful 11 of their final 14 video games. They’ve received 4 straight with matchups in opposition to Orlando, Denver, Washington, and Portland earlier than their date with the Lakers on Christmas.
The group has determined to permit Irving to be a part-time participant this 12 months, taking part in in video games exterior of New York and Toronto. It would take a while to get his conditioning proper, but it surely might be simply what the physician ordered for this workforce.
Brooklyn has been coping with lacking items similar to everybody else, however they’ve been hit particularly arduous this 12 months. Final week they’d 9 gamers listed as out with both an damage or Well being and Security Protocols. Groups are required to have eight gamers to be able to play, and the Nets had simply sufficient on Thursday evening after they hosted the 76ers. Durant was questionable to play heading into that recreation, however suited up and placed on one other dazzling efficiency with 34 factors, 11 rebounds, and eight assists of their victory.
Durant has received the season scoring title 4 instances and is main the league as soon as once more this 12 months. He practically leads the league in minutes, which has been a subject of dialogue not too long ago. His 37 minutes per recreation is simply eclipsed by Toronto’s Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby. Head coach Steve Nash shared his rising concern. “It’s a very vital matter,” Nash stated. “I don’t know we are able to proceed to lean on him the way in which we’ve. It doesn’t really feel proper. There’s gonna be quite a lot of consideration and we’ll have to determine methods to offer him breaks.”
Though it will not be fairly at instances, Brooklyn has been taking good care of enterprise. They rank eighth in offense, sixth in protection, and sixth in internet ranking. They’ve been particularly good in crunch time, placing collectively an ideal 4-0 document in video games determined by three factors or much less. Durant has been taking up within the closing possessions, and nobody has been capable of cease him.
Kevin Durant is the 2nd participant in Nets historical past to attain not less than 150 factors over a 4-game span, becoming a member of Vince Carter who did it in 2005.
Durant can be the first Nets participant to guide the workforce in factors, rebounds and assists in 3 straight video games for the reason that Nets joined the NBA in 1976. pic.twitter.com/lG9UZclFbo
— ESPN Stats & Data (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 17, 2021
The Nets have been particularly good on the highway, which is considerably stunning contemplating all the roster turnover. With all the shifting components and items, a number of gamers have stepped up when the workforce wanted them to. Patty Mills has been an admirable fill-in for Irving. LaMarcus Aldridge was a serious a part of their offense early within the season. The veteran large man got here out of retirement and took the beginning function away from Blake Griffin.
Talking of Griffin, he has stepped proper in after being out of the rotation for some time. He is aware of his function and has an distinctive basketball IQ, which doesn’t get talked about sufficient. He leads the league in fees drawn, regardless of not taking part in in a handful of video games this season.
If Durant is Superman, Harden was imagined to be Brooklyn’s Batman. At this level, he seems extra like Daredevil or Inexperienced Lantern. He has been out of form since earlier than he started final season with the Rockets. His conditioning has been one problem, which has led to accidents. The opposite drawback he has been coping with is barely extra alarming.
A giant deal was made out of the rule modifications that have been applied this season. Guys like Harden and Trae Younger have needed to regulate their taking part in kinds, not with the ability to bait referees into foul calls. There are fewer alternatives on the free-throw line, and he has not been capable of beat guys off of the dribble to get to the rim. Age and conditioning have made him a shell of himself, and he even admitted that he doesn’t actually know what function he must be taking part in.
James Harden says,
“I’m making an attempt determine when to attain, when to playmaker … When to do every little thing. It’s been troublesome.”
— Ajayi Browne (@ajayibrowne) November 28, 2021
Durant was imagined to be teamed up with All-NBA guards Irving and Harden. He was imagined to be taking part in together with his buddy DeAndre Jordan, who now wears purple and gold. The Nets moved on from Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Landry Shamet. All of these guys are gone, and Joe Harris stays out for the foreseeable future. With a wholesome roster, this workforce is sort of unbeatable. This isn’t fantasy basketball although.
Brooklyn can depend their blessings that Durant has remained wholesome, and simply likes to play the sport. He doesn’t thoughts the excessive minutes, taking part in with function gamers, and carrying the majority of the load. He relishes in that function, simply as he did with Workforce USA this previous summer time within the Tokyo Olympics. That got here on the heels of practically carrying this workforce to the Japanese Convention Finals.
This can be a completely different model of Durant than we noticed in Oklahoma Metropolis and Golden State. The entire strain is squarely on his shoulders and he’s carrying the load. Solely 14 gamers in NBA historical past have ever received the common season MVP and a championship in the identical 12 months. Durant has a critical shot at becoming a member of that unique membership this season.
From a statistical standpoint, Durant has had higher seasons in scoring, rebounding, aiding, and effectivity. Be that as it might, there isn’t any denying that what he’s doing this season is arguably simply as spectacular. The way in which he has lifted this workforce is outstanding when you think about all the lacking/shifting components. Whereas most groups have two or three star gamers, the Nets have been doing it with only one.
Dallas has one star in Luka Doncic, however their workforce is struggling. The identical goes for Philadelphia with Joel Embiid and Denver with Nikola Jokic. Everyone knows the story with Damian Lillard in Portland.
The accolades are countless. A league MVP. Two-time champion. Two-time Finals MVP. The 11-time All-Star has been named to an All-NBA workforce 9 instances. He was named to the league’s seventy fifth Anniversary Workforce, that includes the best gamers to ever hit the hardwood. His expertise is simple. His ability set is unguardable. His love for the sport is immeasurable.
The G.O.A.T. debate has at all times concerned Michael Jordan and LeBron James. With respect to the opposite legends of the sport, it’s time to begin together with Durant’s title in that dialogue.