BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)
To say Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving failed to fulfill their promise with the Nets so far is an understatement.
Their two-year run together with the team has been marred with controversy and not much happiness. They played a role in getting Kenny Atkinson fired as head coach in their first year as Nets, even though Durant did not play that season as he rehabbed from an ACL injury he suffered as a Golden State Warrior in the 2019 NBA Finals.
In the two years they played together, the Nets have yet to play in the NBA Finals, let alone an Eastern Conference finals appearance. Irving’s injury against the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks last season cost them the series. This season, both stunk in the Boston Celtics sweep of the Nets.
In his first forgettable season, Irving quit on the Nets by being on the injured list rather than trying to help them make the playoffs since he knew the team was a lost cause, even though they qualified in the end despite being swept by the Toronto Raptors.
Yes, both can change the narrative. There could be a happy ending for both when all is said and done. But what’s the point? Why go on? Irving caused headaches for this franchise, and Durant hasn’t exactly been a winner here.
The Nets are better off letting Irving leave as a free agent and trading Durant for draft picks or players that want to create a new culture of success.
Realistically, it likely won’t happen. I get it. The Nets want to keep Durant since he promotes their brand internationally and he gives them the best chance to win a championship. Plus, they still have a delusion of grandeur that the Nets can overtake the Knicks in popularity in the tri-state area, so they have a reason to keep him. Also, they plan on keeping Irving since he makes Durant happy and he offers them the best chance to win a championship.
Still, what makes them think things can change after two years? It’s not like anyone cares about the Nets even with both there. Attendance has not been great, and the Nets don’t get much coverage with the media here. Plus, those two are getting older and teams are getting better. The other teams don’t fear the Nets anymore with that duo.
Keeping this duo would be insanity like running it back and expecting different results. Yes, it could happen, but odds are good it may not.
There have been reports about the Nets maybe being done with Irving. They have to be tired of his nonsense, and understandably so. They can’t be happy about paying him millions just to watch him play when he wants to and take time off whether it’s sabbatical or not being vaccinated for the good of the team. They had to be bothered about his dismissive attitude after they got swept by the Celtics. They had to be annoyed about him dictating what the franchise will do minutes after they got swept.
But I will believe it when I see it. If they let him go, this would be the best decision they made in a long time. It would send a message that no one is bigger than the team no matter how good he is. It would mean for once the Nets are taking a stand, which would be refreshing.
Irving’s refusal to be vaccinated should have been the last straw for this team. He showed he was selfish rather than doing something for the good of the team. The Nets never clicked all season because he missed time earlier in the season and then when they welcomed him back, he only played road games since he could not play at home due to the city’s mandated vaccinated rule. His absence played a role in James Harden requesting a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers because he couldn’t handle the Nets point guard being a part-time player.
Yes, Irving tantalized everyone with his great shooting and ballhandling skills. But what good can he be when he missed 123 games in his time with the Nets. His drama is not worth the trouble when the Nets have not won much with him.
Three years of his nonsense should be enough for the Nets to sever ties. Deep down, they want to, but they risk alienating Durant altogether if he is gone.
This is where we get to Durant. The Nets won nothing with him, and he hasn’t exactly elevated the franchise to great heights. He puts great individual performances, but it has not resulted to wins. He has been more of a diva and a jerk here than a winning player. They are not going to go far with him, so they should trade him for draft picks and start building around them. There’s no point keeping an unhappy player around if his friend is gone.
Durant can’t lead. He doesn’t make guys better. He rarely spends time around his teammates. He just cares about his numbers. He is so dismissive towards anyone. Is he really the guy the Nets want to build around in creating a new culture? He didn’t seem to play hard as the series against the Celtics went on.
This team has been so unlikable with this duo. Prior to them coming here, the Nets built a likable team with Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris. The fans actually gravitated to that group. They need to get back to that. They need to build a winning culture where it would be basketball first. They need guys who enjoy playing the game rather than using the game as a burden. Watching iso basketball with Irving and Durant does not strike anyone as basketball aesthetics.
It’s time for the Nets to take their team back from two stars who held the franchise hostage.
After two years with this duo with nothing to show for it, they ran their course here. There’s no point going on anymore.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6