The Nets are still taking their hits, a week after their ignominious exit in the first round to the Celtics, a sweep no less. and increasingly the onus is being put not just on the franchise’s superstars but on its two leaders, Joe Tsai and Sean Marks, as well.
In columns this weekend, two of the Daily News’ best known columnists, Mike Lupica and Bob Raissman took on the Nets collapse and blamed the owner and GM for creating an environment in which the team’s two superstars “joined at the hip” took over the franchise, then failed to deliver the goods.
Lupica, one of basketball’s leading commentators for decades — remember The Sports Reporters on ESPN? — suggested that Irving’s comments about “managing the franchise” (followed up by his Twitter screed) after such a devastating loss should not be a surprise. He’s basically immune at this point, Lupica wrote.
The larger problem with the Nets is that the people in charge, owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks, look like patsies here for the way they have allowed Kyrie and Kevin — K in this case stands for strikeout in basketball, too — to walk all over them from the time the two stars came to Brooklyn to win all those championships they were going to win.
Lupica blames Irving in particular for the Nets demise from championship favorites to victims of a first round sweep, describing his vaccine refusal as the “single biggest contributing factor.” He does not hold back in describing Irving...
[A] self-indulgent and self-absorbed player whose vaccination status was the single biggest contributing factor to what became not just a lost season, but one of the biggest flops in New York City basketball history...
If the Nets had a choice here, if someone other than their stars were running their franchise, they would tell Dr. Irving to make sure that door didn’t hit him on the way out of it.
He also slams KD for essentially enabling Irving...
When it was over Durant defended Irving, despite what Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated had done to the Nets and their season. What choice does Durant have? They are joined at the hip until Irving is playing for somebody else, something he will inevitably do, even as he talked about how he is here for the long haul. When you heard that, if you’re a Nets fan, you had a right to be thinking, yeah, but what’s the good news?
But Lupica reserves his toughest criticism for Tsai and Marks who at one point he calls “pushovers.”
Tsai is just the money guy. Marks acts as if he works for them. Both really do look like suckers. By the way? Marks especially doesn’t get to walk away from this shipwreck, not by a long shot. He’s not an unindicted co-conspirator. Just a co-conspirator.
Lupica concludes that franchises can empower players but they don’t have to give them the keys to the arena, citing the relationship LeBron James, Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh had with Pat Riley, a partnership that did produce championships.
Even when LeBron and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh formed the first super team in Miami (and did manage to win multiple titles), there was no question that the franchise was being run by one man: Pat Riley. Can anybody imagine what’s gone on in Brooklyn going on in Miami.
Raissman, who covers sports media, took the same tack Sunday, blaming the owner and GM and offering the bigger insult, that the Nets have now surpassed the Knicks for the title of “New York’s Most Dysfunctional Franchise,” beating out “James (Guitar Jimmy) Dolan” in incompetence.
Nets owner Joe Tsai and GM Sean Marks already have done everything to appease Irving. Where did it get them? What did it get them? An early playoff exit? A well-earned reputation for being weak executives unable to manage one of their superstars?
Irving repaid them by delivering his own brand of agita on and off the court. Like when he used a combination of finger gestures to clap back at Boston’s bad-mouthing fans. Irving didn’t channel his anger, if there truly was any, by doing anything inspiring on the court.
Raissman also takes a shot at Steve Nash, suggesting that criticism of the Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau should be leavened after watching Nash in the post-season.
And after seeing the way Steve Nash coached in the Celtics series, will Tom Thibodeau’s media detractors now admit they’re glad Dolan, Leon Rose & Co. have — so far — stayed the course, sticking with their coach?
At least Thibodeau fostered the notion of stability and hope. And that’s much better than those clouds of dysfunction that have found a home above the Barclays Center.
In the end, the Nets have a lot of baggage some of which cannot be so easily off-loaded and time is of the essence. As Richard Jefferson put it in his eloquent discussion of the Nets lost season after Game 4, there are only so many opportunities, so many seasons, where you have the opportunity to win it all, noting that in the Nets NBA history, it’s only happened four or five times, two of them in the last two years. Wasting Kevin Durant’s prime seems criminal ... and worthy of whatever criticism is levied. Expect more.