‘Tumultuous’ barely does the Brooklyn Nets’ season justice. They were title favorites before the season started with their fearsome trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden.

Things got strange almost immediately, as New York’s vaccine mandate dictated that Irving was not allowed to play in home games. Nets owner Joe Tsai and General Manager Sean Marks made the decision to bench Irving entirely, effectively paying him him not to play so as to avoid distractions.

Things started fantastically for Brooklyn, though, as they roared to a 21-8 start and looked like the most dangerous team in the league. Their first flashpoint happened in December, though, as a Covid-19 outbreak hit them hard. That situation saw them field only eight players against the Orlando Magic before three-straight games were postponed.

That same outbreak caused Nets ownership to change their tune, reinstating Irving for road games, but he also would take some time to make his debut as he was one of the players who had to enter safety protocols during the outbreak. Irving finally suited up in early January against the Indiana Pacers, and he helped the Nets get a win that would keep their record strong at 24-12. 

However, it was all downhill from there. The Nets went 20-26 for the rest of the season, finishing with a 44-38 record that forced them into the play-ins after once being at the top of the conference.

In that span, they saw Harden pull the same thing he did in Houston and force his way out of Brooklyn to reunite with Daryl Morey in Philadelphia. Rumors were that Harden had fallen out of Durant, with one of the contentious issues being Irving’s absence from the team.

The Nets then moved Harden before the trade deadline lapsed, sending him to the Sixers in a blockbuster deal that saw the Nets receive Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond, and Seth Curry along with two picks in exchange for James Harden and Paul Millsap.


Curry and Drummond ended up being part of Steve Nash’s rotation, but the centerpiece in the deal never even played a game. Simmons was rumored to have been considering a Game 4 comeback, but that eventually didn’t happen. Simmons, who’s been a lightning rod for criticism ever since he refused to dunk on Trae Young in last year’s playoffs, was lambasted again by the media. 

There were some hopeful moments for the Nets though. Irving’s return to the lineup saw him put on some memorable performances, including a 50-point performance that he accomplished while taking only 19 shots from the field. Around a week later, he followed that up by one-upping himself with a 60-point explosion.

However, Irving’s return as a full-time player simply didn’t fix the Nets’ problems. As great at basketball as Irving is, the Nets didn’t seem to build enough chemistry, and continued to battle through injuries to key contributors like Curry.

Things change fast in the NBA, though. Once the Nets had won their play-in game against the Cavaliers by a 118-109 margin, expectations essentially reset. Yes, they were coming in as the seventh seed, but were about as unconventional as a seventh seed could be. They had Durant and Irving healthy, and had the advantage of the Boston Celtics’ Robert ‘Timelord’ Williams III being unavailable for a few games in the series.

Irving balled out in Game 1 and almost single-handedly silenced a Boston crowd that still hates him for the antics he put up during his time with the Celtics along with the things he did after he left. Unfortunately, the Nets lost to a game-winner that was primarily caused by Durant missing a defensive coverage.


The rest of the series was hard-fought, but the Celtics consistently outplayed the Nets when it mattered. The Nets blew a 17-point lead in Game 2, and then in Game 3 held a lead until there was 3:58 left in the first quarter. That statistic is important to remember because it was the very last time the Nets had a lead in the series. Barring a few ties in the first quarter of Game 4, the Nets never had a lead, and the last few minutes of Game 4 perfectly encapsulated their disastrous season.

Jayson Tatum fouled out with 2:48 left, opening the door for the Nets to charge back into the game. The Celtics only held a 109-103 lead when Tatum had to leave the game, and the Nets got to as close as 109-108. 

Then, of all things, their season was essentially sunk by a missed free throw from Durant, who had made ten-straight in the game prior to his miss with 22.2 seconds left in the game. That led to a fast break opportunity that the Celtics converted, which essentially put the game away before it ended in a 116-112 margin. Durant also missed a big three-pointer with 10.3 left on the clock, before making one with 3.4 seconds left when the game was already out of reach. The two-time champion finished with 39 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. His running mate Irving had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Getting swept out of the playoffs is a complete disaster for Brooklyn. They were simply outplayed by Boston, who used aggressive defense to throw Durant and Irving off of their games. It’s telling that Bruce Brown was the Nets’ most effective scorer in Game 2 and 3. You can’t expect to be taken seriously when you have two of the best scorers in NBA history and not even be able to win one game in a series. They didn’t have complete scrubs on the bench, either. Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and the rest of the Celtics were simply better through the entire series – and those guys were all around when Irving was a Celtic.

Now, as they’re left on the outside looking in, everyone in the Nets organization will have to take an honest look at how things went wrong. This was the first time Durant had lost in the playoffs since 2010 and the first time that Irving had ever failed to reach the second round after making the playoffs. 

So many things are going to happen in the coming months. Irving has a player option on the final year of his contract that will net him $36 million, and no one knows if the Nets will grant him an extension, or if he’ll sign one if they do offer. While he may be one of Durant’s best friends, you never know what you’re going to get when it comes to Irving.

Durant is signed until the end of the 2025-26 season, while Simmons’ contract runs until the end of the 2024-25 season. We don’t know what we’ll get when Simmons actually suits up (which still feels like a big if) and the Nets have five players entering unrestricted free agency in Goran Dragic, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummon and Bruce Brown.

I’m curious to see what the Nets will do to reload for the 2022-23 season. KD and Uncle Drew look to have been exposed this time around, as neither of them have any excuses for the outcome against the Celtics.