clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

IF Nets lose Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, where would it rank in NBA failures?

Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Brian Lewis on Sunday tries his hand at ranking where the Nets 2022 off-season debacle ranks among NBA’s historic failures or as he puts it, “whether the failure will be historic or just plain horrible.”

The standard is high. Lewis ranks the top 10 “organizational failures,” starting with the St. Louis Hawks trading Bill Russell to the Boston Celtics in 1956 up the potential (and likely) loss of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving 66 years later.

This is going to end up as a catastrophic failure by management, a stinging disappointment from which it may take years to recover.

The list is filled with a number of Nets failures, including the 1976 sale of Julius Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers (No. 9) and the 2012-13 Brooklyn Nets of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Kidd fame (No. 5). So where does he rank the current failure? No. 3.

There is still a chance Durant, Irving and the Nets patch up their differences, run it back and end up winning a title — but that chance is infinitesimal. And even if it somehow happens, it doesn’t erase what happened this past season.

The Nets were preseason favorites to win the title behind a Big 3 of Durant, Irving and Harden. But it all started to go sideways when Irving refused to adhere to New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates and was barred from playing at home. He eventually missed nearly two-thirds of the season, playing just 29 games.

Harden tired of the situation and asked out before the trade deadline. The Nets traded Harden to the 76ers for a package centered around Ben Simmons, but Simmons didn’t play due to a back injury and mental health issues. The Nets were swept in the first round by the Celtics.

That’s right between the 2012-13 Lakers that featured a superteam of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard at No. 4 and the 1996-97 Rockets, yet another failed superteaem, this one featuring Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler. See a pattern?

Is there anyway disaster is averted? That Lewis has to reconsider his rankings? He doesn’t think so.

[T]he idea that Durant and Irving will suddenly get on the same page with the Nets, move forward and play out this season in pursuit of a championship strains credulity. It seems like posturing. Frankly, so does the noise from the Raptors about Scottie Barnes being untouchable. They’re not so much lies as negotiation tactics.

Still, whoever the Nets bring back for Durant won’t be the best player in the world or the most gifted scorer in recent history. And whatever the Nets become won’t hold a candle to the promise of the original Big 3 with Durant, Irving and James Harden — or even the one fans never even got to see with Ben Simmons replacing Harden. Durant, Irving and Harden played just 16 games together.

So, what is Lewis’ choice for the worst organizational failure? St. Louis trading Russell.

The Celtics had the No. 7 overall pick in the 1956 draft, when Russell was the obvious No. 1 pick bound for the then-Rochester Royals (now Sacramento Kings). But the Celtics sagely traded Cliff Hagan, Ed Macauley and their selection to the St. Louis Hawks (now Atlanta) for the second pick.

Celtics owner Walter Brown — also president of the Ice Capades — offered Royals owner Lee Harrison to send the Ice Capades to Rochester for a week if they would pass on Russell. Si Green became a Royal and the answer to a trivia question. The Celtics became, well, the Celtics.

Not a standard you hope to emulate.