It’s gone. That dream of winning multiple titles with the superstar duo of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant has disappeared faster than you can say, "What an absurd mess!"
The Durant-Irving era ended Thursday in almost the same bombshell fashion that it began exactly three years ago. Durant, who had rocked the basketball world when he announced he was coming to the Nets on June 30, 2019, rocked it again by calling Nets owner Joe Tsai and asking for a trade.
According to ESPN, Irving and Durant may still want to play together; they just don’t want to play together in Brooklyn. Earlier this week, Irving opted in on his $37 million player option for next season after reportedly trying and failing to work out a sign and trade.
Durant is a four-time scoring champ and has four years left on his contract, which means just about every executive in the league is reaching out to the Nets right now. While Nets general manager Sean Marks is sure to get some quality pieces and picks for Durant, it doesn’t change the fact that the Durant-Irving era was a failure of epic proportions.
No titles. One playoff series win. Just 44 games where Durant and Irving played together over the last three seasons. That's all the Nets got out of winning one of the biggest sweepstakes in the history of free agency.
Three years ago, Knicks fans were crying in their lattes as they tried to absorb the fact Durant had picked the Nets over their storied franchise. Thursday, they broke the Schadenfreude meter on Twitter as it as they got to delight in the misery of Nets fans while celebrating their team’s signing of Jalen Brunson.
It’s hard not to feel a little bit sorry for the Nets, even if you were in love with the young, homegrown team they dismantled as they reached for the stars.
I mean, were the Nets supposed to say thanks but no thanks when Durant let it be known that he wanted to pick their team over all other suitors three years ago? That would sort of be like winning the lottery but not turning in your ticket because you are afraid your friends and family are going to take advantage of you.
That’s not to say the Nets weren’t enablers in this star-studded mess.
They basically gave Durant the keys to the castle. They brought along Irving, his best friend in the deal. They kicked their coach Kenny Atkinson to the curb in favor of Durant’s buddy, Steve Nash. They paid Durant not to play his first year as he rehabbed has Achilles, though that’s something any team in the league would have done.
They also traded away young stars Jarrett Allen and Caris LaVert for James Harden last season, which, in retrospect, may be the biggest thing you can fault them for in this whole mess.
No one can doubt Durant’s talent or his commitment to winning. He may have only played in 90 regular-season games and 16 postseason games over the past three years, but almost every minute he was on the court was thrilling to watch. He played hard and seemed to care about the direction of the team. Until this offseason.
The one thing Durant can be faulted for is his choice in best friends. Irving is an incredible talent, but never has seemed to share his friend’s single-minded passion for the game.
Irving’s vaccination status hung over the team all season. Irving, who was not allowed to play at the Barclays Center for a good chunk of the season, played in just 29 regular-season games. His flipping in and out of the lineup had to be confusing for his teammates. It, and the chaos it caused, is said to be one of the main reasons that Harden demanded a trade in the middle of the season.
So, the Big 3 is soon to be the Big 0, and the Nets are rebuilding again. Yes, they are going to get some decent pieces for Durant, but nothing that will make up for this kind of debacle.