BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Jim Mcissac/Getty Images)
Who didn’t see this coming?
A roster that boasted Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden turned combustible in the end. With a roster that featured mercurial personalities, there was no way it was going to end well. Sure it worked for last season, but this appeared too good to be true. Eventually, something would happen to make this become a failed experiment.
That day came Thursday afternoon in the trade deadline. The Nets traded Harden and some guy named Paul Millsap to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two future first-round picks.
No matter how you slice it. No matter how the Nets spin it. This trade turned out to be a bust for the Nets in a sense the Big 3 turned out to be a failed experiment. After all, they played together for only 16 games. They started the season with championship dreams, and now they are in transition. This is obviously not what they had in mind when they built this super team. It’s broken up because Harden was fed up with Irving being a part-time player as a result of him not wanting to be vaccinated. Remember the Nets point guard can’t play home games or at Madison Square Garden or Toronto because of the vaccine mandate.
Anyone that says the Nets can contend for a championship with this present roster is full of it. First, Simmons took most of the season off, so who knows what his frame of mind is and how much rust he has in his game. Second, Irving being a part-time player does not make the Nets better. Finally, who knows what’s the mindset of Durant after his friend got traded to a division rival?
I did not think the Nets would trade Harden. I felt they would have gone for it, even if he was unhappy. Their best chance of winning a title was to keep him, even if he leaves as a free agent this offseason. I figured once Durant comes back from his injury after he was diagnosed with an MCL sprain, Harden would get over it and play through the season.
It’s hard to believe Durant approved this trade, even if he publicly says he was fine with it on TNT Thursday night. His best chance of winning a title was with Harden, not with Simmons, Curry and Drummond. Who knows how happy he can be? For the Nets to make the trade without his blessing, this could be a problem.
Speaking of Durant, the Nets have to wonder if he may miss the season for them to trade Harden. Does he have any motivation to come back now that his friend is gone?
As for Irving, he did not seem worked up about Harden leaving. They couldn’t play together as evident with them having minus-12 in their 172 minutes together this season without Durant. He also knew Harden couldn’t stand him for his lack of commitment towards the team.
This goes back to why this Big 3 turned out to be a failed experiment. Eventually, Harden and Irving would create problems with each other. The Nets knew this, too with their flaky personalities that can’t seem to be never happy. Despite all that, they decided to be bold by going all-in with the idea the wins were worth it. Also, they made this super team in an attempt to build a niche in New York and start forming a fanbase of their own. It turned out to be a failure, even when they were winning.
It makes a basketball fan appreciate the Heat’s Big 3 with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh playing together and being in four NBA Finals with two championships to show for it. It’s hard to build a super team with so many alpha males playing together with so many egos and agendas.
It’s amusing the Nets tried this again after a failed experiment with Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce years ago. One would think they would have learned a long time ago. They deserved what happened to them. It’s hard to feel sorry for them. If anything, everyone is laughing at them today, and they should. It should be a lesson for them and the teams involved there are no shortcuts to winning a championship.
Now, Nets general manager Sean Marks will do it the old-fashioned way: Building a team around Durant with role players.
Of course, the problems won’t end now that Harden is gone. Irving presents his own issues, and so does Simmons. Oh, and God knows Durant is not stable, either.
Yes, the Nets received value, but that’s missing the point. This was about building a dynasty with the Big 3, taking a chunk of the fans in a basketball town that rallies around the Knicks and erasing the bad history this franchise dealt with since they traded Dr. J. To make a deal by making the best out of it is nothing to get excited about.
Instead, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Same old Nets. Another moment in the sad history of this franchise.