The Brooklyn Nets are considered a dark horse in the NBA Playoffs. They have not had Kyrie Irving for most of the season, but they are still in the hunt for a championship. This is because their stars have stepped up to fill the void left by Irving’s absence.
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The Brooklyn Nets prevailed in their appeal to New York City authorities, and Kyrie Irving is now permitted to practice with the club in Brooklyn. However, his lack of COVID-19 immunization prohibits him from attending, much less playing in, any of the team’s home games at Barclays Center. Madison Square Garden is included in the city’s prohibition on non-vaccinated individuals entering public gyms.
Irving may play in a maximum of 39 games for the Nets assuming he stays healthy or otherwise engaged (pause for a laugh break here). For the NBA’s title favorites, being less than half a season removed from your starting point guard is less than ideal. It’s compounded worse by the fact that the scenario might have been avoided completely.
Aside from his privacy, Kyrie Irving’s position is no longer a mystery.
Without Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets have enough weapons to win the NBA championship. | Steven Ryan/Getty Images
In late September, Kyrie Irving made a remote appearance at the Brooklyn Nets’ media day. Irving declined to answer questions regarding his immunization status, requesting that his privacy be respected.
The cat was finally out of the bag when the Nets hosted the Milwaukee Bucks in a preseason game at Barclays Center on Oct. 8. “Kyrie Irving: NWT-Ineligible to Play,” read the box score. For the record, “NWT” stands for “not with team” in NBA box scores. Irving just has one reason to be ineligible since he isn’t suspended by the league or his club. In New York City, if you don’t take a shot, you don’t get to play.
As a result, Brooklyn coach Steve Nash moved James Harden to the point, Joe Harris to the two, and Bruce Brown, the versatile small forward, into the starting lineup. It’s the start of the season. Ask Russell Westbrook of the 0-4 Los Angeles Lakers whether it’s a big deal.
The Nets begin their season on October 19 at Milwaukee against the Bucks. So Irving is all set to leave. On the road against the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 22, the situation is the same. From then, things become tricky. On October 24, the Brooklyn Nets begin a six-game homestand against the Charlotte Hornets. Is it time to start Lineup B? Nash must make this decision.
The Brooklyn Nets can succeed even if Kyrie Irving isn’t on the team.
According to a tweet from Brian Lewis of the New York Post, Nash acknowledged the predicament the Brooklyn Nets are in with Kyrie Irving following Sunday’s practice:
“I believe we’ve realized he won’t be playing at home. This year, we’ll almost certainly have to play without him. So it’s just a matter of when, where, and how much.”
That pretty much sums up Irving’s first year in Brooklyn. He’s appeared in 74 of the 144 regular-season games in two seasons. Only nine of the team’s 16 postseason games have seen him in the lineup. According to his regular-season game count, he’ll be available for 20 of the 39 games in which he’s not ineligible to play. This isn’t a dig against Irving; it’s just arithmetic.
However, there is a better option. Obtain Kevin Durant’s approval for a contract to relocate Irving from Brooklyn. Respect his privacy by removing him from New York’s prying gaze. The Nets have everything they need to contend for a championship without the distractions that come with Uncle Drew’s antics.
Harden has played point guard on a championship team. For the most of his time with the Houston Rockets, he was the main ballhandler. They never won a championship, although they were nearly always in contention. He also didn’t have Durant to help him out.
A Big Three is great, but the Brooklyn Nets can get by with only two superstars.
Big Threes creating superteams are all the rage in the NBA right now, and Durant, Harden, and Kyrie Irving definitely fit the bill. Or, at the very least, a trio that is bigger than usual.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was the lone superstar on a championship team less than four months ago (Khris Middleton is a star, but he’s not extraordinary). For the Lakers in 2020, LeBron James and Anthony Davis were sufficient. For the Toronto Raptors in 2019, Kawhi Leonard flew alone.
Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Paul Millsap are all past All-Stars with Brooklyn. Two of the past three years, Harris has led the NBA in 3-point accuracy. Off the bench, Patty Mills has championship experience. Cam Thomas, the 27th overall pick in the 2021 draft, seems to be a future star.
Kyrie Irving is a basketball legend. This is a reality that cannot be disputed. He’s also a huge drain on team cohesion by choice. Requesting that your teammates play for more than half a season without you because you don’t trust the precise science that the rest of the squad is OK with is a new level of narcissism.
It’s a headache that the Brooklyn Nets can alleviate without the need of an injection.
NBA.com provided the box score information.
Michael Jordan has no patience for NBA players who refuse to get COVID-19 vaccines: ‘I’m a Firm Believer in Science,’ he says.
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