After suffering a winter meltdown, how can the Nets be one big happy family again? Or at least put up with a marriage of convenience?
It might not be that simple.
Look for disagreement and you can find the application; But once training camp starts later this month, Brooklyn may have a picture of a season they’re hoping to put behind them.
The cliché says time heals all wounds. But in sports, winning eases strife. Including Kyrie Irving’s controversial contract talks and attempts to get Kevin Durant traded — or the coach and GM fired.
Honestly, last season itself was an unbearable roller coaster from the start.
Irving’s refusal to comply with New York’s covid-19 vaccination mandate removed the first brick from the foundation and the house appeared ready to collapse.
Irving’s absence for two-thirds of the season set off a chain reaction, starting with a trade request for James Harden and a first-round sweep by the Boston Celtics in Brooklyn. And that’s when things get really ugly. Irving’s contract talks turned into an ordeal. Durant asked. And the vacation was thrown into chaos.
But now, the Nets must learn to get comfortable in the chaos. The Post reported on July 12 that Irving intended to stay with Brooklyn, and the Nets dropped the Durant heel bomb on August 23.
Nets owner Joe Tsai resisted Durant’s request to fire both coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks, rescinding his trade request and staying in Brooklyn. for now.
Durant (and business partner Rich Kleiman) met with Tsai and his wife, Clara, in Los Angeles on August 22, along with the two men they were trying to get rid of. Emotions are felt. Laundry air is transferred. And whether or not a hug is offered — or needed — there’s plenty to do for Brooklyn this upcoming season.
Talks over Irving’s max deal broke down after he refused to vaccinate, then negotiated an extension this summer. He is currently under expiring contract and can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. Durant was satisfied after leaving that LA meeting — but how long will that satisfaction last?
Net Media Day (expected to be September 26) should be a must-see. If last year’s media day was impressive, the unvaccinated Irving should be banned from the building and only seen via Zoom, which should make it look tame by comparison.
The assembled press corps gets their first chance to ask Durant why they want the coach and GM locked up, and how Nash and Marks plan to handle the player who tried to fire them.
That work begins the next day, when training camp begins.
If the first step toward reconciliation (supposedly) comes in that California tête-á-tête, the next can begin in camp. While the entire network has made its way through the HSS training facility this offseason — including Ben Simmons, who was traded for Harden and has yet to make his debut, and Irving — Durant has mostly kept his distance. That distance is closed during camp.
Still, it will be just the introduction to training camp. Practice is practice, as Allen Iverson said. Building real chemistry has to be done in real games, with real pressure on their shoulders and real results on the line.
That will require getting the often-injured Irvin healthy. And the previously deranged Durant Happy. And Simmons in the right head position.
“I think it’s going to be awesome,” Simmons said of playing with Durant and Irving. “Having those guys on the floor with a bunch of different tools running around with me. And I don’t think it’s going to happen as fast as we want to play.
Despite Simmons’ optimism, no one will know how Brooklyn’s new big three will mesh until it happens.
Irving and Simmons have a past relationship, playing together under legendary high school coach Kevin Boyle, so they’re friendly. And from his NBA debut through 2020-21 — his last healthy season — Simmons was second in the league in 3-pointers made (996). That should make for a good matchup with Durant, Irving, Joe Harris and Seth Curry.
“We lost a franchise player (in Harden), and we got a franchise player back,” Irving exclaimed after the season. But we didn’t get a chance to see it. [Simmons] On the floor… Ben is good, we have Ben, we have his back. It will be good for next year. But now we turn the page and look forward to what we will build.
There may not be an exact match to what the Nets are facing, but there are plenty of examples of teams that have won despite fighting with each other, or with their coaches, or both.
For New York fans, the most famous example is the 1980s. It’s the 1977 Yankees, slugger Reggie Jackson. On June 18, he got into a physical altercation with manager Billy Martin in the dugout at Fenway Park. series by the Dodgers. The next year was another 100 wins and another title against Los Angeles.
But there are examples in the NBA, too, though perhaps not as exciting.
Boston won the 2008 title with a big three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, although Allen obviously had locker room issues with Rajon Rondo and others.
That same year, the Celtics defeated the Lakers in six games to win the championship. Earlier this summer, Kobe Bryant — who famously had a falling out with Shaquille O’Neal — went on Los Angeles radio to ask for a trade. And just like in Durant’s case, the team held on to their natural talent.
Bryant went on to win the MVP award that season, and led the Lakers to the next two championships.
Of course, these are examples of internal conflicts between stars, and in Brooklyn it was the star who tried the power play to fire the coach. In the year That’s what happened in Miami in 2010, when the Heat started 9-8 in LeBron James’ first season on the South Coast.
James wanted coach Erik Spoelstra fired, and Heat co-owner Raanan Katz admitted as much. But team president Pat Riley called James into his office and told the star in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t going his way. Over the next four years, Spoelstra went on to coach James and the Heat to four finals — and two titles.
For a Brooklyn team that already had to fend off a potentially dangerous Durant trade request, it’s important to avoid a similar slow start.
The Nets have a dozen road dates in their first 20 games, the most in the Eastern Conference and second-most in the league. The five back-to-backs in that stretch are the second-most in the NBA and have the fewest days off.
Not good for a quick start. But that’s exactly what the Nets need to dampen any talk of a Durant trade request and ease the threat of another.