Nets guard James Harden, left, and guard Kyrie Irving watch...

Nets guard James Harden, left, and guard Kyrie Irving watch from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Phoenix.  Credit: AP/Matt York

Can a team look depressed?

Because that’s exactly what the Nets appeared to be in the second half of their ugly, ugly 112-101 loss to a bad Kings team in Sacramento on Wednesday night.

The loss was the Nets’ sixth straight, their longest losing streak since the Big 3 was formed. Most concerning was that somewhere in the middle of the fourth quarter — after the Nets had failed to come up with a counterpunch to the Kings’ 9-0 run — the players looked as if they were resigned to another loss.

"I think all the guys are disappointed," coach Steve Nash said. "They did a lot of good things for long stretches. We gave up too many points — two 29-point quarters in the second half. And we only scored 39. Very uncharacteristic.

"Guys are allowed to have tough nights and we’re allowed to [not] score the ball at times. It’s going to happen. It just happened at an unfortunate time when we’re struggling and had a very winnable game under control."

Nash chalked it up to his team being tired, and that’s probably true. The question is what are the Nets tired of? Are they tired from playing Golden State and Phoenix in consecutive games leading into the Sacramento game? Or are they tired of playing with a rotating roster caused by injuries to top players and because one of their stars, Kyrie Irving, cannot play in half their games because of his vaccination status?

Here’s an ugly thought for Nets fans, one that the faithful are having a harder and harder time blocking out of their minds. It’s looking very possible that the Nets may go down in history as the dynasty that never was, that this Big 3 experiment might not work out.

When James Harden joined the Nets last season, they boasted one of the most talent-laden rosters in the history of the game. The sky seemed to be the limit. People weren’t just talking a ring. They were talking how many.

In the few games in which Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant actually have played together since then, that kind of talk doesn’t seem like hyperbole. In the past two seasons, the Nets are 13-3 when the Big 3 are on the floor. Only a month ago in Chicago, their last game together, the Nets looked unbeatable as they rolled over a Bulls team that is No. 1 in the Eastern Conference.

If this six-game losing streak has shown anything, it is that Durant is the heart and soul of this team and that the Nets don’t have the healthy bodies to win without him on a consistent basis, or perhaps any basis. Since Durant went out with a knee injury, the Nets are 2-7 and have dropped to 29-22. In a matter of weeks, they have fallen from first place in the conference to sixth and within spitting distance of having to deal with a play-in game.

It’s not just that Durant was averaging just under 30 points a game. It’s that when he is on the court, it opens up everything for the rest of the team. There’s no moping or looking depressed when Durant is on the floor.

Last season, the Nets survived injuries to Durant, Irving and Harden during the regular season and postseason and came within inches of beating the Milwaukee Bucks, the eventual champion, in the second round of the playoffs.

Heading into training camp, there was a feeling of elation around the team. The Big 3 were healthy and the sky seemed to be the limit again. Then, right before the start of the season, the Big 3 became the Big 2 as the result of Irving’s vaccination status. Then Joe Harris underwent ankle surgery. And then, shortly after the team allowed Irving to come back on a part-time basis, Durant got injured.

Who’s in? Who’s out? Who’s healthy? At some point, it’s hard not to get tired of all the drama. The Nets team that lost in Sacramento looked physically and emotionally exhausted.

This is going to be a tough one to fix.

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