BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Not only did Ben Simmons decide that it was not worth playing Game 4 in the Nets’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics on Monday night, but he decided not to sit with his teammates on the bench as he did in this series. It’s doubtful he was even at Barclays Center.
We ripped Simmons for wussing out in Game 4, but we got it wrong. We should give him credit for having the foresight of the Nets quitting against the Celtics in that game. The Nets finished the season with a 116-112 loss to the Celtics on their home court.
Don’t be fooled by the score. No one thought the Nets were winning, even when they trailed 111-109 with 22 seconds left in the game. They showed no effort in rebounding all night, and they let Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart get whatever shots they wanted whenever they wanted. They showed no emotion or pride most of the night, especially Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
Two seasons into the Durant and Irving era, the Nets still have nothing to show for it. After losing Game 7 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, they completed their season by getting swept by the Boston Celtics. They only won one playoff series.
This season, the Nets won as many playoff games as the Knicks, which is zero.
So much for Durant’s claim about the Nets being a cool franchise. This organization can have new locales, new owners, new coaches, new general managers and new players, but they are still the Nets. They always find a way to disappoint. Since moving to Brooklyn, they have been an underachieving franchise.
It’s no wonder no one in town cares about the Nets. There’s a good reason for it.
The Nets had no business being swept by the Celtics. Yes, the Celtics outplayed and outcoached the Nets. Yes, the Celtics played like the better team. Yes, they can go to the NBA Finals. But for the Nets to fail to win a game and come up big at home, that’s an indictment of Durant’s and Irving’s leadership.
There’s no question Durant and Irving came up small not just in the elimination game, but in this series. They deserve criticism all the way to the offseason. Considering how arrogant the both of them have been in their time here, it’s been a long-time coming. Both of them never took the regular season seriously, and they paid for it.
Irving playing as a part-time player hurt the Nets this season. He became a part-time player because he didn’t want to get vaccinated, so he couldn’t play at Barclays Center until New York Mayor Eric Adams changed the vaccination rule. He never got into a groove with his teammates, and it showed in the playoffs. Yes, he put great individual performances at times, but it did not result in much winning. His part-time status frustrated James Harden, who got his way of being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Durant failed in the postseason. He spent way too much time shooting jumpers rather than driving to the basket. He was stubborn enough to keep shooting rather than make adjustments.
All he did is create the perception that he needed Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to win his two championships. On his own, he failed to get it done. He came up small in overtime costing the Nets in Game 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks, and in this series against the Celtics, he was useless.
Durant and Irving seemed more relieved and happy that the series was over. One would think they would be bothered or angered about this development. It should make the Nets wonder how much their two stars really cared about winning a championship for the organization. It’s also fair to wonder if they even like playing basketball. They play like playing the sport is a burden, and they act like the game owns much to them than vice versa. It’s no wonder it’s hard to root for them.
Steve Nash did not distinguish himself as the Nets coach in this series. He had no answers on how to solve the Celtics defense. He never got Irving and Durant back on track. But in the end, the Nets stars failed the Nets more than the Nets head coach. This duo is being paid the big bucks to score in the postseason, and they never could answer when the Celtics scored buckets after buckets.
If the Nets can’t win with that duo for the last two seasons, why should anyone feel confident that they can get it done ever? I doubt firing the head coach is going to do anything.
It’s hard to say where they go from here. Irving and Durant are only getting older, and it could be this team wasted them in their prime. Shoot, Irving may not be back if he wants a max contract by opting out. He claimed that he plans on being back, but he said the same thing once with the Celtics and then reneged on his word, so it’s hard to take him seriously.
If the Nets had guts, they would let Irving and Simmons walk. But it won’t happen. Durant likes Irving, and they want to give Simmons a full training camp and a full season just to see what he really can do. This is a problem right there. This organization caters to players rather than making a stand on how the players should do their job.
Yes, it’s a player league, but what exactly has Irving done to get special treatment? All he has done is create problems and won nothing. He has been part of the problem. He has been the reason why the Nets underachieved the last two seasons. It would be a joke if the Nets cater to him again, and it would show they just don’t get it.
The Nets can’t be taken seriously as a championship contender anymore. Irving and Durant don’t seem to have what it takes to be champions. They certainly don’t know how to lead, and they don’t enjoy playing basketball. A team with bad characters that have selfish agendas won’t go anywhere.
One would think this franchise would have learned from the Deron Williams error, but they didn’t as they let the talents of Irving and Durant tantalize them into visions of championships, parades and dynasties.
This Nets franchise thought getting both of them would elevate them as the team in town. They looked at this as an opportunity to turn New York into Nets town with the Knicks stinking it up.
So much for that. The city never warmed up the Nets with those two the last two years, and it’s doubtful it will ever happen after two playoff flops.
Creating drama and not much winning sum up the Irving and Durant era.
Right now, their Nets legacy should be known for getting swept by the Celtics.