With recent news regarding the status of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the Brooklyn Nets’ “other guys” will need to carry the workload.
Those semblances and glimmers of hope and optimism leaving the NBA All-Star break have all but deteriorated. The Brooklyn Nets are now in survival more from here until the final horn on the 2019-20 NBA season inevitably sounds.
That disappointment was then compounded by news of Kyrie Irving reaggravating his right shoulder he injured in a game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Nov. 4.
There was hope that the Nets would build off their newfound momentum entering the All-Star break and carry it over to the final 29 games of the year with reinforcements on the horizon. Perhaps they’d become one of the most menacing 38-42-win seventh seeds of recent memory. Maybe they’d even win a playoff series and upset the likes of the Heat, Celtics or Raptors.
Such thoughts now only exist in the dreams of those daring enough to conjure such irrationalities. Replaced with those fantasies is the reality that they’re going to have to fight for every inch of ground as an undermanned squad entering this final stretch.
The team’s mantra, “Next Man Up,” will have to be in full effect.
Thus far, without the presence of Irving on the hardwood, the Nets hone a respectable 17-16 record. Not shabby, not exactly breathtaking either, but that’s what they are… a team hovering around the .500 mark without their key stars.
Will that make noise in a top-heavy eastern conference? Probably not. But this was never supposed to be the season with aspirations of a deep playoff push. It wasn’t supposed to go this south, but hey, it is what it is. The team got through rough patches in the early goings of the season, they’ll have to again.
Without Caris LeVert and Irving for nearly seven weeks earlier in this season, the Nets survived. Head coach Kenny Atkinson got the most of his available personnel; the team came together as a collective unit and played their best basketball to-date.
Players such as Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Taurean Prince, Jarrett Allen, DeAndre Jordan, Garrett Temple, Wilson Chandler, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, amongst others will all have to elevate their games (once more) to compensate for the departure of Irving from the rotation.
It may not be the season many of us envisioned, but the seventh seed is still within grasp. It’s likely that Atkinson tightens the rotations and makes that final push, the season is not completely lost.
This final stretch will also likely determine the final course of action Sean Marks takes this upcoming summer, who fits and who will be flogged for returning assets deemed more complementary. Until then, the once-again depleted Nets will have to hold their ground and rely on the next man stepping up.