BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Nets will return home on Tuesday night after a hideous 0-5 West Coast trip that has them on an eight-game losing streak. Their free-fall relegated them in the play-in spot as a seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
Since Kyrie Irving returned to the Nets after being exiled for not being vaccinated, they are 3-8. He averaged a pedestrian 25.5 points and 5.3 assists. He hasn’t really been the impactful player the team expected him to be, especially with Kevin Durant and James Harden being out with injuries.
Of course, Irving won’t play against the Boston Celtics Tuesday night because he is ineligible to play games in New York with the vaccination mandate rules. He is not vaccinated, and he is unwilling to do so. This means he has only 10 games left to play this season with the Nets. Remember he can’t play games against the Knicks and the Toronto Raptors on the road either because of vaccination mandate rules in New York and Toronto.
This is not feasible for him and the Nets with 29 games remaining. He could use a lot of work before playoffs, and 10 games are not enough for him to be ready to go.
There is no chemistry with this roster with Irving being a part-time player. It’s hard to see the roster be in sync when he only plays in road games. This explains why the team has struggled and why he hasn’t exactly played like a star.
He hasn’t been the solution for the Nets’ woes. He certainly has been exposed as an awful playmaker since Durant has been out. Most importantly, they haven’t won with him.
Something must give. It’s not working for him and the Nets. They both can’t wait for the city to change its vaccination rules for him to play at home. Either he gets jabbed or he ends his season by staying at home. It can’t be halfway anymore.
Trading him does nothing since it likely won’t happen. Kevin Durant runs the Nets, so what he says goes. He is committed to the polarizing Nets point guard. Remember he came to the Nets in a package deal with Irving in free agency a few years ago.
It was also Durant that likely pushed the Nets to bring Irving back because he got tired of carrying the scoring load and logging in so many minutes. So this may have to be Durant’s approval whether the Nets should keep this sham of an experiment going with Irving as a part-time player.
At some point, a player can not dictate what a franchise can do. The Nets need to be proactive in this situation.
No one should be surprised it has not worked out with Irving as a part-time player. How can a team be cohesive and organized on offense when he only plays at road games? Players are a creature of habit, and basketball features players knowing how to switch and rotate and what’s their strength. That comes when a player plays with the same unit every game. It’s so much different when Patty Mills plays with others at home than when Irving plays on the road.
This explains why Harden has been frustrated with Irving and the way the offense has gone this season. He relies on Irving since the point guard knows how to deliver the ball at the right spot along with executing screens and cuts. Harden’s struggles hinge on the point guard being a part-time player.
There’s nothing exciting about Irving whatsoever for the Nets to make this worth a headache.
I for one believe the losing streak comes from Irving not getting much work in as a part-time player. Yes, he played in all five games on this trip, but not playing at home can play a role in him being rusty and ineffective on the road. This is what happened in this trip, and it’s why the Nets need to wonder if this is really working, especially if Harden is speaking out about it.
Good for Irving that he does not want to be vaccinated. He earned that right. It’s his body. If the vaccine does not suit well for him, he shouldn’t be forced to do so.
But the Nets also have the right to not let a player dictate a franchise what to do. The rules are the rules here in New York whether it’s fair or not. If the rule says a player needs to be vaccinated to play his home games in New York, he has to oblige or not play.
The Nets hope they can get by with Irving as a part-time player with the idea the city would bend backward for him when the playoffs start.
His performance and the team’s record tell a different story.
Again, something has to give.
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