Coming off the shocking free- agency coup in which the Nets signed Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan, last season’s sixth playoff seed entered the new season with boundless optimism and much higher sights. But six games in, the Nets are 2-4, are struggling on defense and repeatedly have blown double-digit leads.
The disappointment is undeniable. “It’s going to take time to get together and get on the same page and close out a game like this,” coach Kenny Atkinson said after the Nets blew a 14-point third-quarter lead in a 113-109 loss in Detroit on Saturday night. “It’s a new team, and we have to have patience. I like the guys’ spirit and attitude. They’re playing hard. I just think it’s going to take some time.”
Irving’s performances have been special, starting with his 50-point debut right through his third career triple-double against the Pistons (20 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists). He’s averaging 30.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists and shooting 44.9% overall, 38.9 from three-point range and 90.5 at the foul line.
Irving has preached the importance of patience, but after losing to a Pistons team missing three starters, he said the Nets must learn to expect every opponent’s best shot now that they are a team with bona fide stars.
Next up are the struggling young Pelicans (1-5) on Monday night at Barclays Center, and it feels like a “must-win” game for the Nets, who then face a five-game West Coast trip.
Reflecting on his formative years playing alongside LeBron James in Cleveland, Irving said everyone has to grow to meet higher expectations. “I think about just how much I had to invest with other players, other teammates that I had and also individually just being respected [by] players from other teams,” Irving said. “Their scouting report is legit to stop me from scoring a certain amount of points or to corral me in a certain place.
“That takes a lot of experience going against high-level teams, playing in some high-level playoff experiences. And this is the telltale sign of we’re just going into it with an open mind. We can’t get too overzealous or impatient. This is part of the growing process. Now, we’re trying to get to the top of the Eastern Conference and be playing in June. This is something that just has to happen with experience.”
Irving said the facial fracture that limited him to one full preseason game disrupted the growth process. He hinted that he and holdovers such as Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie still are learning about each other.
“That has a balance as well in terms of being aggressive in the right spots, knowing where your teammates are going to be and defensively trusting it and also trusting the system and trusting the communication we have,” Irving said. “That’s going to take time.
“When you have the expectations from the outside and you get into the realization of the season that this is a different Brooklyn Nets team than we were last year because of the players we have and the talent we have . . . Guys are really getting up to play against us.”
Get used to it.