BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo by J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday RM via Getty Images)
Kyrie Irving, Nets head coach Steve Nash and even Ben Simmons received criticism for the Boston Celtics sweeping the Nets. They deserved it. Irving and Nash stunk in their roles, and Simmons quit on the Nets being on the brink of elimination on Sunday.
Kevin Durant apparently received a free pass locally and nationally. The only media member that tore into him was TNT’s Charles Barkley, who said Durant was more of a bus rider when he won his two championships with the Golden State Warriors. What Barkley meant was the Nets star rode the coattails of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and that he couldn’t lead on his own.
Of course, Durant behaved like a child Tuesday morning by trolling Barkley on Instagram Live. He called the TNT analyst a hypocrite by showing a picture of him playing with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler in the late 90s. While he was at it, he got into a feud with a couple of people on Twitter for people critiquing his performance.
One would think he would lay low and get away from everything after he and his team took an L from the Boston Celtics. For him to be defiant, one should wonder about his leadership skills.
This shows once again that Durant doesn’t get it. Criticism comes with the territory when a team falls short of championship expectations and when the star failed his own team in the playoff series. Durant really shouldn’t be in a position to be defensive here.
He is fortunate the local media here is soft on him because no one cares about the Nets for him to get scrutiny. Reading the New York Post on Tuesday, there wasn’t really much criticism on him or the Nets for falling short. It was mild at best. The writers just said the obvious things about the team underachieving. No one on sports radio didn’t muster much anger about the Nets being swept.
In my opinion, this site is the only one that has held the Nets accountable.
Durant should be scrutinized because he was terrible against the Celtics. He shot 38.5 % in that series, and he let the Celtics defense frustrate him by playing physically with him. He played selfishly by hoisting shots rather than getting his teammates involved. He was stubborn enough to keep shooting rather than trying to score in the post. He did not exactly inspire the Nets at all. His frustration rubbed off on others.
This brings another point the Nets don’t want to get into but should regardless. They need to wonder if he is the right guy to lead them to the winner’s circle at the end of June.
I have yet to see it. Durant doesn’t exactly bring it every night. He paces himself knowing that it’s about the postseason. By going on cruise control in the regular season, he picked up bad habits in the playoffs such as shooting rather than getting others involved, not hustling to get a rebound and not getting back on defense. He should have used the regular season to work better with his supporting cast. Most times this season, it’s been 1-on-5 with Durant playing the role of Carmelo Anthony in being a ball stopper. That approach played a role in why the Nets struggled against the Celtics. The role players had no feel in that series whatsoever because Durant didn’t trust his supporting cast and he wanted to prove a point that he can figure out the Celtics swarming defense.
There were often times Durant wouldn’t hustle much. Teams took note of that, too. Certainly, his teammates did.
Durant should have been more active with Irving. He should have convinced him to be vaccinated so that he can form a continuity with him and James Harden. He should have been more active with the Nets point guard about putting the team first.
Too often, he let Irving be Irving, and the team just went off the rails as a result. This Celtics sweep likely was in the making based on his inability to get Irving under control.
Then, there was Durant’s relationship with James Harden. Make no mistake. Durant had his fingerprint all over in getting Harden to be traded to the Nets.
For whatever reason this training camp, Durant got himself into a problem with Harden. He accused Harden of being out of shape and not being ready to go. He also questioned Harden’s commitment to winning, which is hilarious because one can say the same thing about Durant. He should have done a better job managing Harden than alienating him. After all, he brought him in there to complete a super team. He should have not broken up in haste.
It was also Durant’s responsibility to have Harden and Irving coexist one way or another. After all, he is the star of the team. He makes personnel decisions in collaboration with Nets general manager Sean Marks and Nets owner Joe Tsai. He needs to own up to this and make it work. For him to let Harden go away just like that, he showed terrible leadership.
This brings us to another question: Can Durant lead his own team?
In the last two seasons, he showed he hasn’t. Under adversity, he wilts. He is more known as a front-runner when things go well. This is why it’s okay to question him.
I don’t know if he can win a title with the Nets. I have yet to see any evidence. He puts great regular season numbers. That’s nice, but that gets you a cup of coffee and nothing else. When the going gets tough, he wilted against the Bucks and Celtics. Now, school’s out on how to get Durant by hitting him as much as possible
Durant enters the next season with many questions about his game and his leadership. He seemed disengaged this season for whatever reason. When he played in the Olympics this past summer, he was determined to win the gold. He did not share that same passion when the Nets season started. He wasn’t worked up about his performance along with his team’s in this year’s playoffs. If anything, he seemed relieved it was over and that he can enjoy his offseason.
Instead of going after people on social media, he should spend this offseason doing some soul-searching about what he can do to make himself and his teammates better.
If he is oblivious to that, then he can look for more of the same ending postseason result next season.
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