kyrie irving
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets are flirting with disaster — missing the playoffs entirely. After Kevin Durant’s injury in January, the Nets went into a state of freefall. Brooklyn was in second place in the Eastern Conference on Jan. 16, but they are sitting in 10th as of Monday.

The good news is that the Nets are guaranteed a spot in the play-in tournament. Unfortunately, the bad news is that they would need to win two play-in games to grab the eighth seed. Brooklyn only has four more games to figure things out in the regular season.

Brooklyn is a game behind the Atlanta Hawks after losing to Trae Young and company over the weekend despite 55 points from Kevin Durant. Even worse, they are in a dead heat with the Charlotte Hornets, who own the tiebreaker in the season series.

If these current standings hold, Brooklyn would need wins in Charlotte and Atlanta/Cleveland to lock up the eighth seed. Of course, it’s possible with the collection of talent on the Nets, but they haven’t shown any consistency this season. There’s no telling what might happen in those games.

If they do manage to run the table in the play-in, the reward is a first-round date with the Miami Heat, most likely. While the Nets are going to be awfully dangerous in a seven-game series, running the gauntlet in the Eastern Conference won’t be easy. The Heat, Bucks, Celtics, and 76ers are all legitimate contenders.

Add in the fact that Ben Simmons is a complete mystery and the issues are piling up for the Nets.

On the bright side, the Toronto Raptors look like they are going to avoid the play-in tournament. Why is that significant for Brooklyn? Kyrie Irving wouldn’t be able to play in any road games in Toronto due to his vaccination status.

For what it’s worth, the Nets aren’t worried about who they might play.

“Who cares? Whoever we play, we play,” Kevin Durant said on Monday via Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News. “I don’t care who we play, I don’t care that we’re in the play-in. Let’s just tip the ball up, you know? See what happens. That’s all you can control. It’s too stressful thinking about, or trying to dodge a team. … Let’s just play the game.”

At this point, there is no crying over spilled milk. Injuries, the James Harden trade, Irving’s early banishment, and eventual part-time status are all factors that brought the Nets to this point.

Win the play-in tournament, make a deep run into the playoffs, and none of this will matter. The Nets are still a championship-caliber roster, but it’s time to prove it.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.