The New Look Nets lost Wednesday evening to an undermanned and clearly inferior Cleveland Cavaliers team. It was the first time the NBA’s newest power trio, comprised of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden, all played together in a Brooklyn uniform. The game went into double overtime and was finally won by the Cavs thanks to the scorching hot hand of Collin Sexton, who scored 15 in that double overtime period to seal the game.
A lot will be said about how the Nets lost to a team that won’t make the playoffs, how they’ll need time to gel and work on their rhythm and how the sky is falling after just one game. “It won’t work!” some will assuredly shout. “Too many egos and not enough basketballs!” you’ll hear. Well, I’m here to assure you this team will be just fine. In fact, I have a feeling they’ll be scary fine. As long as they can just, as my golf coach would say, be their best selves.
I know it’s a little late for Christmas wishes but I have one left under the tree. I want a Nets-Lakers Finals so bad I can taste it. I can assure you… so does the NBA front office.
In case you’re oblivious to all things associated with the Association, and shame on you if you are, the Brooklyn Nets lineup now features three of the league’s top ten players. They have the 2013-14 league MVP, the 2017-18 league MVP and none other than Uncle Drew. Harden and Durant have combined for seven of the last eleven scoring titles and not to be outdone, Irving can score on anyone, at any time, on any court. Buckets, Youngblood.
This is the most daunting compilation of individual talent we’ve seen since Golden State’s Warriors and Miami’s Heatles that combined for five titles in seven years. And no, I’m not crowning anyone just yet but I must admit I am VERY excited to watch this team play and see how it evolves, the latest super-gathering in the NBA’s revolving petri dish of megastars.
There is no denying that these three have to find a way to blend, and grow, together. The NBA doesn’t just hand out championships. Furthermore, all three of these gentlemen have already had their share of brain farts that lead some of us to believe their expected level of success might be unattainable. Kyrie, who once told us all convincingly that he thought the earth was flat, is coming back from taking two weeks off of basketball for “personal reasons.” James Harden showed up to Houston’s mini-camp looking like he had spent as much time at the Krispy Kreme as he did the neighboring strip club. And Kevin Durant has yet to shed the label of taking the easy way out by joining a ready-made Golden State team for his only two titles.
Despite all the shrapnel stuck in their hind parts, their talent is undeniable if not generational. All three are transcendental players and elite scorers. They can each take over a game at a moment’s notice and generally do. They are all sure-fire, un-guardable Hall of Famers who can drop thirty or more on a whim. This isn’t the Lakers adding Karl Malone and Gary Payton at the end of their careers for a combined glory ride shot at a title. Irving, Harden and Durant are all in their prime, 28, 31 and 32 respectively, with a suddenly ticking clock.
In other words, the best-case scenario Nets will be a very tough out.
In fact, if the Nets and Lakers meet up in this year’s Finals, with everyone healthy and the Nets clicking as they could, and LeBron and company somehow beat them, it will be his most symbolic championship ever: greater than the two he won in Miami, greater than the one he brought to Cleveland and yes, greater than the one they just played in the bubble. A Nets-Lakers Finals will closely resemble that one scene from the Avengers movie where all the superheroes are flying around beating the crap out of each other.
While it may be premature to anoint these Nets better than the Golden State Warriors that won three titles in four years, I can see the best-case scenario Nets difficult to contend with for years to come, assuming they can co-exist, which I can’t see them not doing. One has to believe these three understand what’s at stake.
For the rest of this season, and hopefully a lot longer, the Brooklyn Nets will throw out three of the most exciting scorers in the HISTORY of the game. It’s why I suggested just a month ago that a team like Milwaukee go after Harden once he became disgruntled in Houston. Now Brooklyn’s got him and Milwaukee’s (along with Philly’s, Boston’s and Miami’s) once-assured road to the NBA Finals is far from that.
Adding Harden to the already-frightening lineup of Irving and Durant is nothing short of criminal. While many may doubt this experiment can work, I think they’ll find a way. There’s simply too much talent not to but more importantly, a fair amount of want to. While Durant and Irving already have rings, they’re tired of hearing theirs come with an asterisk. James Harden on the other hand, has no rings. Nor does head coach Steve Nash and assistant coach Mike D’Antoni.
Yes, they will need to rebound the basketball. Yes, they will need to DEFEND the basketball. Having Nash as a rookie coach and Mike D’Antoni (where the D’ is silent) doesn’t necessarily bode well towards putting forth a consistent defensive front, which is the Lakers strong suit. It was only after Draymond Green pulled Kevin Durant aside in Golden State and convinced him to give it his all on the defensive end that the Warriors, an underrated defensive team, became as dominant as they were. Perhaps he can pass that information along.
Yes, the Nets lost to the Cavaliers. Yes, they need not only time to blend but learn to get their other teammates involved. Yes, they lack depth and rim protection. Yes, they will fall into bad habits by playing too much isolation basketball and yes, they will, night in and night out, get every team’s best effort, as they should. Any one of those flaws can derail this whole experiment. Don’t think for one moment LeBron hasn’t taken notice with a burning desire to remind them whose league this still is.
But if these three are serious about making a run, they could spoil a whole bunch of teams’ dance parties for years to come. They’re all under contract and their future is ripe for the taking. They just have to set their minds to it.
Kudos to Nets GM Sean Marks for making this happen. I have a feeling he’ll be eating a lot of steak dinners in 2021. Just go ahead and give him NBA Executive of the Year right now (considering LeBron isn’t eligible).
There is no reason this trinity shouldn’t usher LeBron James into retirement, which is why earlier I said if (and most likely when) they meet in the Finals, and LeBron manages to expose the chink(s) in the armor of the best-case scenario Nets, it will be his greatest accomplishment yet on the court.
I could be totally wrong. This whole Nets thing could totally implode. I doubt it though. Either way, it’s going to be fun to watch.