The questions are all the same: Can the Nets get beyond their summer of discontent, complete with team’s biggest star (reportedly) asking the owner to fire his GM and coach? Can the new “Big Three” stay healthy, both physically and mentally, considering they were available for a total of 84 games last season? What about the three guys who didn’t play at all last season? Can they get by without much depth at the 5? Etc., etc.
All those questions will be asked on Monday at Media Day, but the answers may not come for weeks or even months. The national media has spoken, mostly in skeptical terms, about the Nets prospects. Witness the ESPN ratings. Their basic premise is that after everything that’s gone wrong in the last 18 months, why should anyone expect things to change? It’s a valid point.
The local media, in their previews, offer fans a bit more hope. Despite the big, bad narrative, the Nets do have a LOT going for them, starting with the two prodigals returning after making peace with the organization. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are reportedly happy and ready to go. Ben Simmons who hasn’t played for a year has a hell of a resume’. ALL of them have something to prove for themselves and their team. As Brian Lewis writes in his training preview Saturday, other teams have gone through worse and still won, noting: “Sometimes talent wins out.”
The Yankees won the 1977 World Series after Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin had a physical altercation in the dugout in Boston. After the late Lakers great Kobe Bryant asked for a trade, he won the MVP that season and helped his team to titles in the next two.
And when LeBron James tried to get Heat coach Erik Spoelstra fired in 2010 — only to have his attempt summarily rejected by team president Pat Riley — Miami reached the Finals in each of the next four seasons, and won a couple of championships.
Similarly, in his camp preview, Kristian Winfield writes, the Nets front office “steadied the ship” for which he believes they deserve a lot of credit.
Of all the seasons Nets GM Sean Marks has been in the running for Executive of the Year, this might be the year his peers tip their hats.
Marks and team governor Joe Tsai stared an explosive situation in the face – a potential detonation of a championship franchise in the wake of Kevin Durant’s summertime trade request – and steadied the ship through turbulent waters.
KD and Kyrie haven’t spoken publicly about things, their only recent comments coming in social media and those mostly about other things but Ben Simmons seemed to be speaking for the trio and and the team this week on the Old Man & The Three podcast with J.J. Redick and Tommy Alter.
“It’s going to be sick. I can’t wait. I’m so excited. I’ve got a new number, a new jersey,” Simmons, who has switched from 25 to 10 said. “I’m just looking forward to it. I think we have a special team, and if we get it all together, we’re going to be champions. That’s the end goal.
“But yeah, I’m excited. It’s New York City. I’m playing with some unbelievable players, and a great coaching staff.”
The coaching staff, particularly Steve Nash, has taken its hits. Nash’s performance last year was criticized by fans and Durant did (again, reportedly) ask that Tsai fire him ... after praising him twice in April, including in the press conference after the Celtics sweep. The Nets also didn’t renew the contracts of Adam Harrington and David Vanterpool. Amar’e Stoudemire left, citing a “mutual agreement” between him and the organization. They did bring on Igor Kokoskov, one of the league’s most respected assistants and promoted from within to fill their vacancies. (Simmons in answer to another Redick question called the staff “incredible.”)
The Nets have disappointed their fans and there is plenty of shared blame. as Winfield notes.
Entering Year 4 of the Seven-Eleven era, the Nets have just one playoff series victory to show, with the same number of sweeps to boot after the Celtics dusted off the broomsticks and knocked them out of the first round in disappointing fashion last season.
Looking at things over the long term, it’s actually worse. The Nets will be celebrating 10 years in Brooklyn next month and all they have to show for it is two series wins, one with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in 2013 and the other with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden in 2021. Tsai and before him Mikhail Prokhorov spent a lot of money for limited returns.
So as the Nets gather at HSS Monday to take questions, then Tuesday to take to the court, fans have a right to remain skeptical and maybe for a while. That’s a good thing considering what’s happened of late.
Alex Schiffer as part of The Athletic’s league-wide training camp preview put it succinctly: “Are the Nets able to put the drama behind them and move forward, or will it linger all season?” Stay tuned.
- Discord among stars, staff at the top of Nets’ biggest concerns - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- 3 storylines to watch as the Nets enter training camp - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Every NBA team’s biggest question heading into training camp - The Athletic