Sometimes the basketball gods have a funny way of getting things right. In the 2016 playoffs the Oklahoma City Thunder took the defending champion Golden State Warriors to 7 games, eventually losing in the series finale. That off-season Kevin Durant made the decision to leave the Thunder to join that Warriors team that finished 73-9 the prior season. Armed with a compliment of players like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, Durant lead the loaded Warriors to back to back championships. While this gave Durant his elusive ring, it also called into question his ability to be a transcendent superstar who could lead his team to victory on his own. After his 3rd trip to the playoffs with Golden Stare and an unfortunate Achilles injury, Durant became a free agent with the choice to sign anywhere he would like. With no shortage of suitors, he curiously chose to go to the Brooklyn Nets with Kyrie Irving who already burned bridges in two previous stops.
What has happened since has been nothing short of a circus which is rich coming from a Knicks fan like myself. Irving and Durant have spent more time off the court than on it. The Nets then hired a coach with no coaching experience in Steve Nash (passing up many more qualified candidates along the way) and tripled down by trading for James Harden. The price? Only a 2021 1st round draft pick, a 2022 1st round draft pick, a 2023 1st round draft pick, a 2024 1st round draft pick, a 2025 1st round draft pick, a 2026 1st round draft pick and a 2027 1st round draft pick. At the time of the trade I said: "In most situations and for most superstars 4 first round draft picks and 2 solid rotation guys would be worth it to get a guy like Harden, even if he has a lot of basketball miles. But giving that up to pair with an injury risk like Durant and a guy who clearly doesn't seem committed like Irving could potentially set this franchise back for 10 years."
The trio played 16 out of 113 games together. Read that again. Then after a rift between Harden and Durant the Nets moved Harden to acquire Ben Simmons who suited up exactly 0 games this season.
Basketball is a game that requires maximum effort all the time. I’ll never question Kevin Durant’s effort but I do question his decision making. If he never wins another title he’ll be known as one of the most gifted scorers in NBA history. He’ll also hit a ceiling in terms of his legacy which is unfortunate.
Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons however are different stories. Ben Simmons has been paid all season and has made no effort to play. And I don’t want to hear about how Kyrie Irving is one of the most “skilled” players ever. In 10 seasons (not counting the pandemic year) he’s played over 70 games only 3 times. Since 2017 his teams are 12-13 in the playoffs. Is he talented? Of course. But in addition to Simmons I also question his commitment to the game. Simply put, if you're getting paid full time money to play only part time, you can expect the level of scrutiny to increase.
There are no shortcuts in the NBA. Unfortunately the Nets found out the hard way tonight.