The Brooklyn Nets version of this franchise has a less than stellar reputation, especially based on the talent that has made its way into Brooklyn. From DWill and Joe Jesus to Kyrie and KD, the Nets have had star power, but seem to burn brighter in theory than in reality on the court. The two greatest Nets in the franchise's history both got the team to finals (Dr. J in the ABA and two 'chips; JKidd in the NBA and two finals appearances). The latest episode of this ongoing subplot is likely more believable in a soap opera script than in the NBA but while the Hollywood scriptwriters are on strike, allow me to submit this treatment.
The preeminent scorer of his generation (apologies to one Stephen Curry), Kevin Durant, has left the borough of Brooklyn, despite having committed to the team to stay for an additional four years. This occurred because the possibly greatest ballhandler of his generation, Kyrie Irving, demanded a trade after being told he could not simply show up to work when he wanted if he expected to be paid maximum dollars.
You know the details. Irving was shipped off to Dallas to sate the unsophisticated palate of Mark Cuban and in return the Nets were reunited with a familiar face, a defensive stalwart and the picks of Dallas's future. Subsequently, after requesting his own trade, Durant was shipped off to Phoenix (seemingly in the dead of night, much like the Colts leaving Baltimore, lo these many moons ago) and in return the Nets were blessed with "twins" and enough picks to tempt the unwashed masses to demand the Nets trade everyone on the roster for more picks and not field a team for the rest of the season.
Of course, that did not happen. However, what did happen is something that made many of us feel very happy, on the downlow, of course. Irving, as many of us thought he would, proceeded to blow up Luka's spot and make Cuban look like the basketball savant he is...not. This was immediately gratifying as we could now point and scream at the moon, "See? We told you so!" about Irving's lack of commitment to helping a team actually win and get into the playoffs. Other than removing his malignant influence from Brooklyn and the tangible relief of his no longer being in a position to embarrass the franchise, there was little benefit, of course.
Yet, we were not bereft of all opportunities to find satisfaction of another sort. As it turned out, the Nets managed to score Phoenix's 2023 first-round pick as part of the compensation for agreeing to surrender a player who played in only half of the games for which he was paid to be a Brooklyn Net. What this meant is the Nets' draft hopes were deflated for every Suns' win and inflated for every Suns' loss. This allowed us to feel a real-time benefit of giving up the most gifted scorer to ever wear a Nets jersey. We could revel in the disappointment that each Suns loss brought Phoenix because our draft stock improved, correspondingly.
Many of us felt that even if the Mavericks somehow made it into the playoffs, they were not going to repeat their march to the Western Conference Finals of last season. Indeed, this year's Mavericks did not even make it into the play-in tournament. In other words, Irving was not going to prove his "mettle" as a playoff performer. We could gloat about being right about him. This was not an unimportant added bonus.
Kevin Durant went to a team that more than a few pundits and more than a few of us felt could capture the Western Conference's berth in the finals. This was a humiliation that would push too many of us to the brink of our fandom. That sense of dread and expectation is what makes the reality of our current circumstances so unutterably delicious. The Suns have lost their first two games against the suddenly stalwart Denver Nuggets and now CP3 is out for the next two games of the series. It's not looking good for the Phoenix Suns, this season.
I titled this post Feeling Petty. I am feeling Richard Petty. No, I'm feeling Richard Jefferson Petty! Nearly three months ago I was bummed about the loss of what looked like the last opportunity for the Nets to compete for a ring and 'chip for the foreseeable future. Irving's unfathomable selfishness and Durant's unwillingness to see the job done disappointed me more than I thought they would and probably more than they should have. However, such are the vicissitudes of fandom, specifically Brooklyn Nets fandom, that the realization that neither of the spurning superstars will have a practical shot at winning this season actually makes me feel better about it all. Does this make me petty? Well, so be it.