When Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant both joined the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2019, fans across the Tri-State Area expected the team to win the NBA championship, if not multiple championships, pretty soon.
But the Nets haven’t even come close to doing so.
Last season, they narrowly lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to the eventual world champion Milwaukee Bucks, and this season, they got swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics.
One of the main reasons the Nets haven’t reached their potential has been the lack of availability of their superstars, most notably Irving.
On Monday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Irving may opt out of his contract, and that if he does, a team such as the New York Knicks or Los Angeles Lakers may end up acquiring him.
Sources: Kyrie Irving, Nets are at impasse in conversations about his future in Brooklyn, clearing way for the seven-time All-Star to consider the open market. Lakers and Knicks expected to emerge among potential suitors.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 20, 2022
A sign-and-trade is hard to imagine being consummated at this point, but if it were to happen, it’s also hard to imagine the Nets getting another star guard in return.
Therefore, if the Nets do move on from Irving, it would likely make sense for them to also move on from Durant.
Irving Is An Enigma, But The Nets Need Him
No one can ever quite figure out what Irving is really about or what motivates him.
This season, he refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and since New York City’s five boroughs had a vaccine mandate, Irving wasn’t allowed to play in any games at Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden.
Brooklyn was against the idea of him being a part-time player, so they told him to simply stay home until Eric Adams, the new mayor of NYC, lifted the vaccine mandate late in the season.
Last season, following the insurrection at the nation’s capital, Irving took some time off and made it seem like it would be a brief absence to clear his head.
"Kyrie Irving has until June 29th to make a decision on his player option.. if he opts out the Lakers or Clippers wouldn't be able to do a sign & trade because of the hard cap" ~@ShamsCharania#PMSLive pic.twitter.com/0qtE8d6zfO
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) June 20, 2022
Instead, he didn’t appear in seven consecutive games, and during that time, he was spotted partying at a club in the New York City area, which made his claim that he was taking time off to clear his head dubious.
In their two seasons together (Durant missed the 2020 campaign while rehabbing from a torn Achilles), Irving and Durant have played very few games together, and it has been further complicated by the James Harden trade last year and the Ben Simmons trade this year.
It has all led to a lack of team chemistry, which has to be a major reason why the Nets haven’t done much in the postseason.
But Irving is still a great player, and the Nets simply won’t be that relevant without his elite ballhandling, scoring, shooting, facilitating, and clutch abilities.
If Irving switches teams, Durant won’t have enough help to compete for his third championship, and it would make sense for him and the Nets to find another team as well.
In that case, they could simply rebuild around Simmons and go with a youth movement instead of trying to win with a roster that simply wouldn’t provide Durant with enough support.
The Nets are at a crossroads right now, and they may have to realize that pairing Durant and Irving simply wasn’t the greatest idea.