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Nets travel to Washington to fulfill requirements as basketball team

NBA: Washington Wizards at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been two long, long days off, but the Brooklyn Nets still are, at least contractually, a basketball team. Their players get paid to compete on NBA floors. That’s assuming they are both healthy enough to play and are able to clear the inch-high bar of avoiding the promotion of anti-semitic media. Two of Brooklyn’s three max-contract players have not passed both of those requirements, with Ben Simmons currently sidelined with a knee injury, and Kyrie Irving suspended for “no less” than five games. Thus, Kevin Durant and Nets who are suddenly far more crucial to team success than they had anticipated will be in Washington on Friday to take on the Wizards.

It feels pointless, though, doesn’t it? I don’t have any information of my own, nothing that hasn’t been made publicly available, but, from the outside looking in, the Nets are a corpse, propped up. No more than a cheap Halloween decoration, headed for the dumpster in November.

I mean, it’s over. It certainly feels as if Kyrie Irving, the prodigal-son-returned-home just three years ago, has finished his Nets career. Fittingly, he went out with a whimper, posting just four points in over thirty minutes in a Tuesday loss to Chicago, the 10th-worst thing that happened in Brooklyn this week. Irving had never turned in a performance so inept, scoring wise.

It feels harsh to say at first, as Irving has scored

  • 39 points in a playoff game
  • 60 points in a game
  • 50 points in a game, three times.

One of those 50-burgers was his Nets debut, his official homecoming. That that joyous night, even if it ended in a loss, was everything but a sign of things to come, not a preview of a happy marriage but rather a mirage, stings only in retrospect. I think that’s what makes a lot of this so painful for Nets fans. There were real moments of individual greatness, fewer moments of collective greatness, and just seconds of bliss. But they all happened at some points over these last three years and eight, soon to be nine, games. They inspired hope.

That’s worse, right? Why show us something if we couldn’t have it? Why give the starving a crumb, the thirsty a drop? Does this not feel like cruel and unusual punishment for cheering for a franchise that is starting to feel truly cursed in a cosmic sense that goes far beyond the organizational ineptitude of Sacramento or the bad luck of Orlando.

So, Brooklyn will play a basketball game on Friday, in Washington. It will surely be one of the last in this chapter of Nets history, if this chapter is not already closed. Jacque Vaughn will coach the game, because the workplace-harasser Brooklyn is attempting to hire to extend this chapter, thankfully, has hit a snag in his hiring process. May it be a permanent one. We can only hope the foul stench this organization is currently radiating is not permanent, too.

Where to follow the game

You can find the Nets on YES Network and the YES App on Friday night as well as on WFAN-FM on the radio. The festivities will start at 7:00 P.M. ET from Capital One Arena in Washington.


Other than Kyrie Irving’s suspension, the big news is that Ben Simmons will not travel with Brooklyn for this brief, two-game road trip on the Atlantic coast. He missed Monday and Tuesday’s contests with left knee soreness, officially. Meanwhile, Seth Curry and his left ankle are questionable for Friday’s contest, with Jacque Vaughn previously stating that he was targeting one of these two road games for Curry to return in. T.J. Warren is still deep in his rehab work, and targeting a return sometime around the calendar’s flip to 2023.

For the Wizards, it’s a fairly clean injury report. Only Delon Wright is expected to miss the game with a strain of his right hamstring.

The game

Tuesday’s loss against the Bulls was not without its bright spots. Had it dropped Brooklyn to 6-2, rather than 2-6, it would’ve been seen as a fairly obvious schedule-loss against a respectable opponent that was not all negative. But it did drop them to 2-6, and Charlie Brown shows more smarts lining up kick that football again than we do scrambling for positives, once again. There were positives in every loss this season, other than opening night. At some point, the moral victories lose any satisfaction when real victories don’t follow.

Without one other proven NBA-scorer on the roster, expect a high dose of Kevin Durant, and hopefully not another postgame quote like this:

Don’t hold your breath though. Durant is well past the stage of his career where it’s necessary for him to prove his individual greatness by dragging a poor roster around him to grueling November victories. Nor does he want to spend his Novembers doing so. And without the suspended Irving, without that hypothetical third star this roster was set up around, that’s what Durant has: a poor supporting cast. It is not Royce O’Neale’s, or Joe Harris’ fault. They are in an impossible situation. Durant may be too, if his turnovers are any indication.

The Wizards sit at 4-4, perfectly aligning with preseason predictions despite the small sample size: just too good to really tank, but nowhere near being able to contend. The dreaded land, NBA purgatory.

Bradley Beal is still here, with sidekick Kristaps Porzingis in his first full year as a Wizard. He’s coming off a 30-point performance in a win over Philadelphia on Tuesday. The rest of the roster is fine, I guess. A collection of decent-to-good NBA players that don’t seem to fit into any sort of sharp focus or plan. Kyle Kuzma is taking just two less shots per game than Beal. 11 players are averaging double-digit minutes played. If I went digging, I’m sure I’d find some stat that says ESPN, or Bleacher Report, or what have you posts on social media about this team less than any other team.

Player to Watch

I suppose we’ll go with Deni Avdija, getting his third NBA season underway. He’s had an odd start to the campaign, with Washington excelling in his minutes: plus 10.4 per 100 possessions with him on the court, the best number of any Wizard by a decent margin. The length and strength packed into his 6’9” frame make him a handful to deal with when he’s guarding your best player, even if he is prone to foul. There is no doubt Kevin Durant will look at him with a scowl at some point on Friday.

With that being said, he’s seen his average minutes dip below twenty, and was pulled from the starting lineup on Monday. Failing to score just five points per outing so far this season is certainly a disappointment for a former lottery pick. But on a roster without much young talent, and a rocky start to 2022 lottery pick Johnny Davis’ career, Washington is far from out on Avdija.

From the Vault

If you’re in the mood to watch extended highlights, take a walk down memory lane and watch a 2007 win against the Wizards, who recently debuted throwback jerseys in the vein of the mid-2000’s blue ones in this video. Vince Carter finished this game with a 46-16-10 line, scoring New Jersey’s first 14 points:

Jason Kidd also had 18 assists in that one, while Antawn Jamison finished with 37 and 11, and, in an ode to the future, made six of his fourteen attempts from deep!

This was the season in which New Jersey, despite finishing 41-41, won as many playoff series as Brooklyn will likely win in the Durant-era (ouch), beating the Raptors in the first round, in 6. Carter, for his part, played all 82 games and put up a 25-6-5 line, on +1.8 rTS%, an excellent number considering his volume and shot diet (rTS% = his true shooting % - the league average. Carter got a lot of buckets, a lot of the time.) But there was one Net to lead the entire NBA in a major statistical category in 2006-’07. Take your guesses now...

It was Mikki Moore! He led the association in field goal percentage at 60.9% in ‘06-’07. Oh, how time flies.