Just when Nets fans thought there was a chance to take a breath after the Kyrie Irving trade, they woke up to more unfortunate news. Kevin Durant no longer plays for Brooklyn — he plays for the Phoenix Suns.
A couple of days after the Nets sent Irving to the Dallas Mavericks, they sent their last superstar to another contender in the Western Conference. General manager Sean Marks did land a boatload of picks, so that’s a good thing. Head coach Jacque Vaughn could still steer his team into the NBA Playoffs, too. But those championship aspirations from before the season started? Those are all but gone for now.
Instead of building a winning roster through the draft, Brooklyn decided to give the sign-superstars-and-have-them-bring-home-a-title route. It started in 2019 when both Irving and Durant decided to sign with Brooklyn at the outset of free agency. That effort ramped up by acquiring James Harden from the Houston Rockets in January 2021.
Just about two years from that trade getting finalized, they’re all on other teams now. And it happened after requesting to play for someone else.
The saddest part of all, though? The Nets and their fans didn’t even get a chance to see what these three could actually do together on the floor. Deep in Adrian Wojnarowski’s ESPN article discussing details of the Durant negotiations was the following:
Durant, Irving, and Harden only played 16 games together. Six-teen…that’s it! Over the course of an 82-game season, that’s approximately 19.5% of contests. And they didn’t come consecutively, so it’s not like these guys ever had a chance of getting into a groove with one another.
The same could be said about the acquisition of Ben Simmons (although he’s not on the same level as the other three we’ve been talking about). Brooklyn traded Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers at last year’s trade deadline in exchange for Simmons. He didn’t even suit up for the Nets for the first time until opening night of the 2022-23 regular season.
Between his ailments, Irving’s team-issued suspension, and Durant’s knee injury, there wasn’t a ton of runway for them in this case, either. The best glimpse of what could’ve been took place between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Brooklyn went from a 10-11 squad to a 25-12 team thanks to winning 15 of 16 games.
There are still a few hours left before the NBA trade deadline to see if the Nets flip any players they’ve just acquired. At the end of the day, Brooklyn will be just fine. A trip to the playoffs within the next few months could easily be in the organization’s future. Regardless of that, though, they’ll be licking their wounds from this superstar experiment.
Especially because it just failed so spectacularly. You can bet they won’t be doing anything like this in the near future.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.