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The Brooklyn Nets started this season as many consultants’ favorites to achieve the NBA finals from the Japanese Convention. As an alternative, they have been swept by the Boston Celtics within the first-round of the playoffs. All that’s left now could be to strive to determine what went unsuitable in Brooklyn.
The James Harden commerce
The Nets started this season with a Huge Three: a theoretically wholesome Kevin Durant, a theoretically on-the-court Kyrie Irving and a one-time NBA MVP in James Harden, who was acquired the earlier January in a commerce with the Houston Rockets. It was a high-risk transfer to deliver these gifted veterans collectively, provided that they’d all fallen out with their earlier franchises.
To no one’s shock, the trio didn’t final, and it was Harden who left. With their choices restricted in getting a possible influence All-Star in a Harden deal, they organized a malcontent swap with the Philadelphia 76ers, which introduced them again tremendously gifted, defense-first huge man Ben Simmons.
The Nets’ gamble was based mostly upon the concept that Simmons was solely holding out from taking part in as a result of his relationship with the Sixers had disintegrated after his notorious offensive collapse throughout final yr’s playoffs. Because it seems, it was greater than that: Simmons’s absence was as a result of each bodily and psychological well being points that finally prevented him from taking part in a single minute in Brooklyn this season.
Sure, in the long term, the Nets might have one thing within the Simmons acquisition. With that mentioned, being compelled to make the Harden deal and settling with this specific return damage Brooklyn’s probabilities of success this yr.
The primary motive Harden was fed up along with his state of affairs in Brooklyn? Effectively, it couldn’t assist that he was coping with the limitless circus that was Irving’s battle with the Metropolis of New York. It seems that New York’s Covid-19 restrictions meant that unvaccinated gamers couldn’t play residence video games at Barclays Heart, making it unimaginable for Irving to play in Brooklyn for a lot of the common season. Throughout many essential video games, Irving was a spectator.
Loads of different gamers – regardless of their private beliefs – would have merely gotten the vaccine, particularly when it was hurting their staff’s probabilities of successful a championship. In any case, an engaged Irving is likely one of the most harmful gamers in the whole league.
Irving, for his personal causes, refused to make any such sacrifice for his teammates. In case you’re questioning if this might have been the explanation that Harden ultimately compelled his method out of city, properly that’s the standard knowledge though there’s by no means been on-the-record affirmation from Harden himself. One man who does assume the problem affected the season although is, properly, Kyrie Irving. “I believe [my vaccine status] turned a distraction at occasions,” mentioned the purpose guard after Monday’s loss to the Celtics. “And as you see we simply had some drastic adjustments.”
Kevin Durant was damage
So the Nets have been with out Irving for a lot of video games, Harden was in Philadelphia and Simmons was on the bench. It was all as much as Durant to assist shoulder a big share of the staff’s burdens. Sadly, Durant suffered an MCL harm on 15 January and was lacking for over a month and a half (KD was not the one Nets participant to overlook time, Joe Harris’s season was ruined by an ankle harm).
When Durant returned, he was pressed into service to tug the Nets right into a seventh-place end that required them to win a play-in recreation simply to make the playoffs. By the point the playoffs began, Durant was beginning to really feel the consequences of the heavy minutes he was taking part in close to the top of the common season.
That’s not an entire excuse for his early struggles in opposition to Boston – particularly because the Celtics have been lacking beginning middle Robert Williams for the primary two video games of the collection – nevertheless it couldn’t have helped. He managed 39 factors, 9 assists and 7 rebounds in Sport 4, however by that time he was working on empty.
The Nets have a behavior of hiring mascots reasonably than head coaches: let’s not overlook that they introduced in Jason Kidd simply the season after he retired as a participant. So, it wasn’t stunning that they handed Corridor of Famer Steve Nash the keys to the staff in September 2020 although he had by no means even been an NBA assistant coach earlier than.
Nets gamers have been supportive of Nash on Monday night time after their season ended however at occasions throughout this sweep, Nash seemed extra like a babysitter than a coach. Together with his staff down 2-0 and going through an important Sport 3, Nash appeared allergic to calling timeouts and designing performs, hoping that his vets would stumble into the suitable plan of action on their very own. They principally didn’t.
Upon Nash’s hiring, Irving famously responded to the information with a blithe, “I don’t actually see us having a ‘head’ coach.” Perhaps not probably the most well mannered assertion on this planet, however Nash did little to show his level guard unsuitable throughout this postseason.
The Boston Celtics
Nonetheless, it’s laborious to know what Nash may have carried out given how completely the Celtics outplayed his staff. Whereas the dysfunction in Brooklyn has captured the headlines, Boston ought to have been favored from the beginning.
After stumbling by means of the primary half of the season with first-time head coach Ime Udoka nonetheless studying on the job after a powerful internship beneath Gregg Popovich on the San Antonio Spurs and Nash himself with the Nets, the staff received wholesome, Udoka got here into his personal and the Celtics lastly discovered their id.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown realized to play with one another once more. Upon being elevated to the start line guard place, Marcus Sensible emerged because the NBA Defensive Participant of the Yr … and the remainder of his staff weren’t far behind. The Celtics have been the perfect defensive staff within the league within the common season’s second half, and no slouches on the offensive finish both. Given the possibility to tank within the last recreation of the season and keep away from going through Durant and Irving within the first spherical of the playoffs, the Celtics performed at full energy in opposition to a Memphis Grizzlies B-squad to seize the East’s second seed.
They took on the problem as a result of they knew that they may beat the Nets on their very own phrases. By betting on themselves, the Celtics not solely avenged their loss to the Nets in final yr’s playoffs, however they could even have despatched Brooklyn’s whole group again to the drafting board.
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