I know, I know, it’s hard to feel bad for a superteam.
It’s hard to feel bad for a team like the Nets with an embarrassment of riches, a team that has three of the top players in the NBA in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
Still, it’s impossible not to shake your head at the fact that every time things seem to be going right for the Nets, fate takes a left turn.
The Nets announced Sunday that Durant has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Durant was injured when teammate Bruce Brown inadvertently fell into his knee during the second quarter of the Nets’ 120-105 win over the Pelicans on Saturday.
The injury news, of course, could have been a lot worse. Though the Nets gave no timetable for Durant’s return, ESPN reported that they expect he will be out four to six weeks.
That’s still disappointing for Nets fans who were looking forward to seeing what the Big 3 could do together during a prolonged stretch.
The Big 3 have played in only two games together this season, mostly because Irving is unvaccinated and New York City mandates that he needs to be vaccinated to play at Barclays Center. The Nets initially decided they didn’t want him to be a part-time player, then reversed themselves and decided to let him play on the road.
Judging from the way the Nets steamrolled a very good Bulls team in Chicago on Wednesday, they had a good chance to take over first place in the Eastern Conference and separate themselves from the rest of the pack during a stretch featuring 11 of 14 games on the road in arenas where Irving is allowed to play.
"We’ve been a resilient group since I’ve been here, so we just have to keep pushing," Harden said when asked if he feels as if the team is snakebit.
Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of Harden joining Irving and Durant on the Nets and forming the superteam. Injuries, COVID and Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated have limited the Big 3 to playing only 16 games together.
Sixteen games. Hard to believe. And while the Nets do have some promising young players and role players who can step up, the pressure during the next four to six weeks will be mostly on their two remaining superstars.
The good news is that the Nets were 16-3 last season when they were the only two superstars available to play while Durant was battling a nagging hamstring injury.
The truth is the pressure will be mostly on Irving, on and off the court.
Irving is the person most responsible for creating this superteam by convincing Durant to join him in Brooklyn. He also is the person most responsible for creating the team’s current mess by refusing to get vaccinated in a league in which 97% of the players have done so.
And that may be the biggest reason it’s hard to feel sorry for the Nets, given that one of their biggest problems is self-inflicted.
Durant and Harden have had to log unreal minutes this season because of Irving’s decision. Now the Nets are going to have to rely on Harden in their home games until Durant gets back.
Last season, injuries forced Harden into huge minutes. The likely result was the nagging hamstring injury that haunted him the last two months and into the playoffs.
After the big win in Chicago, Harden was asked if he believes Irving eventually will join the team full-time.
"I’m gonna give him the shot," he said.
Harden may have been half- joking, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt if Irving would take one for the team.
I’m not holding my breath.