Every basketball fan has a dream of owning a team or building a roster, but I bet most are not envying the stress that Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai and General Manager Sean Marks have had over the last couple of years.
Who even knows if it’s halfway done? After all the wild twists and turns, here comes another, just when we thought things were dying down:
Let’s back up a little for a refresher: Tsai and Marks hit the jackpot in the 2019 off-season, when apparent BFFs Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, two bona fide superstars at the top of their game, decided to bolt from their respective teams to join forces in Brooklyn. It was massive as the two were supposed to mix it up with a young and promising Nets core that just made the playoffs.
Well, one would think. Things just fell apart, one piece after the other. It seems like the Brooklyn Nets are a drama series disguised as an NBA franchise.
Now here’s a recap of every major Net news prior to today’s trade request, just so we can have a better view of how insane the ride has been. Most, as you’d expect, involved Kyrie’s actions:
- June 2019 – Durant and Irving sign with the Nets, with the former expected to miss the entire 2019-20 season. Brooklyn’s All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell was dealt to the Golden State Warriors in the Durant sign-and-trade.
- February 2020 – After only appearing in 20 of the possible 48 games, and the team only at 21-27, Irving gets shutdown for the season due to an injury.
- March 2020 – Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, who stirred the young team into a surprising playoff appearance in the season prior, gets fired.
- September 2020 – Steve Nash is named as the new head coach.
- October 2020 – Irving says “I don’t really see us having a head coach,” adding that it can be a collaborative effort between the staff and players. It planted a seed of what eventually became an alleged passive-aggressive beef with Nash.
- January 2021 – The Nets send Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, Rodions Kurucs, three first-round picks, and four first-round pick swaps in multiple trades in exchange for James Harden. Spencer Dinwiddie has already been lost for the season due to an injury and will likely be gone in the following free agency, making Joe Harris the only remaining key member of the beloved 2018-19 squad.
- June 2021 – The Nets get eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in seven games, with an ailing Harden playing poorly. Irving was injured in Game 4 and was unable to come back in the series.
- October 2021 – Irving was labelled “ineligible to play” until he gets vaccinated for COVID-19. He remained unvaccinated and missed the team’s first 35 games.
- January 2022 – Irving finally becomes available, albeit only on road games. Durant then got hurt and was scheduled to miss more than a month. By this time, Harden has become weary of the Nets and voiced his frustration about Irving – rumours about wanting out of Brooklyn have also become public.
- February 2022 – New York’s vaccination mandate was lifted, but Irving still didn’t play home games. On the 10th, following weeks of talks, Harden was shipped to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round picks. Simmons was a key piece in the deal but was a big question mark due to his back injury, among other issues. He would not suit up until October 2022 and has had minimal positive impact.
- April 2022 – The Nets get swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round, with Kyrie going a combined 10-for-30 shooting in Games 2 and 3 for an abysmal 13 points per game.
- June 2022 – Kevin Durant requests to be traded and have Nash fired. It was later rescinded and Nash kept his job… for a while.
- November 2022 – Nash is fired after a 2-5 start, and the Nets started playing better. Irving, however, started to get worldwide backlash from his controversial tweets, which later resulted in an eight-game suspension.
It’s a crazy, isn’t it? It doesn’t feel like a basketball team.
Nevertheless, all that then brings us to late January 2023. While climbing into second spot in the Eastern Conference with Durant playing like a top MVP candidate, the 34-year-old suddenly got hurt on January 13th (almost to the day of his 2022 injury) and was once again deemed to miss one month of basketball.
Irving was then tasked to fill much of the scoring void, and did well. He put up 33.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game with a 50.8% shooting (43.8% from three) in an eight-game stretch. They were only okay at best, though, and went just 4-4.
Knowing what we know now, that good streak might be Kyrie’s parting gift from the franchise, because he rejected an extension and here he is now, all ready to bounce. There’s a chance that Tsai and/or Marks can convince him to stay, similar to what they did with KD just months ago, but with everything that happened – month after month for more than three years – and as much of an asset he is talent-wise and on ticket sales, maybe Irving isn’t worth it, and it’s high time to move on.
The Nets are on a tough position, but they have a chance to make something good out of this Kyrie mess. They can very well fleece the hungry teams if they play their cards right, like what the Los Angeles Lakers are now. Don’t forget that the trade market got flipped upside down when the Minnesota Timberwolves unloaded a smorgasbord of players and picks for Rudy Gobert.
The next few days should be fun. Buckle up.