There have been a lot of bad actors around the Nets, disrupting what was supposed to be a golden path to glory. Sean Marks swore a blood oath to a good man and a good trainer named Ken Atkinson, promised they were in the foxhole together for life or death, then fired Atkinson and hired a Hall of Famer, Steve Nash, who he has spent two seasons looking like an intern learning on the job.
Marks and team owner Joe Tsai talked all kinds of things about Kyrie Irving and vaccinations, then relented the moment the Atlantic Division standings became too awkward to watch. James Harden? Harden worked his way from Houston to Brooklyn, then headed to Philadelphia.
None is worse than Irving, of course. His one-man act of subterfuge, a precious bite of should-or-shouldn’t when it came to opting out of the final year of his $36.5 million contract, is just the latest in a pattern of pathetic petulance. And even by Irving’s standards, his patently absurd explanation of it to The Athletic defied all limits of shame:
“Normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different guide us into tomorrow. I have made the decision to participate. See you in the fall.”
Even for a serial phony like Irving, that’s unbelievable, unless “dare to be different” can be interpreted as “I tried to get out of town, but found out the only option for me, maybe, was to take $6 million “. one-year contract with the Lakers.
He’ll lead the Nets into tomorrow with $31 million more than that.
It speaks of a profile in courage.
So the Nets, or at least that part of the organization that Irving identifies as “normal,” will hold their noses and welcome Irving back after winning this look down, and take one more shot at the code of the Eastern Division. This has always been the most hopeful scenario for the Nets if they stick to the tail end of their July 2019 decision to go for the big game, bringing in Irving and Kevin Durant.
Of course, every time you mention this, you have to add this qualifier: “assuming Irving doesn’t go off the net too often.” It is the annual service charge for Irving, something that was already well established in Cleveland and Boston.
The pity of this, of all this, is that once again Durant is forced to take a front row seat at Irving’s freak show. Everything Durant has done is his job: consistently, quietly and excellently. There have been some social media hiccups and some media skirmishes, but in three years (and two seasons) with the Nets he showed up on time, played hard and played as well as anyone in the NBA.
He has 28.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 90 games as a Net. He’s in the rarefied 40/50/90 shooter club like Net (specifically: 40.9 percent from 3-point range; 52.5 on overall; 90.0 from the line). If the Celtics contained him in the playoffs this year (if a 26.3-point average can be called “contained”), it should be remembered that a year earlier, with Irving out and Harden limping, he did everything in his power to keep the Nets viable. in the playoffs, he’s averaging 34.3 points while shooting 51.4 percent.
Surrounded by an excess of snowflakes, Durant has been a mainstay of quiet reliability.
For the good of the team, for the sanctity of the chase, he will surely do it again this year. He has steadfastly refused to criticize Irving for any of his quirks and quirks. He has been a trusted partner even when Irving has broken formation.
And what has he gained from it? He watched his old team at Golden State win a title without him. He’s lost two of the three playoff series he’s played as a Net. He had to hear Charles Barkley say, with some merit, that “before KD gets that great respect from all the old bosses, he’s going to have to win a championship like bus driver”.
If the Nets are really going to make good on their promise, it will be because Durant takes over the narrative of this team, as well as its soul. It will be up to him, not Nash, not Marks, not Tsai, to control Irving. He really needs to drive the bus. He should want to drive the bus, he should want to drive it with the Nets, and if he can get them there, that bus would forever sit next to Ralph Kramden’s Bus 2969 for eternal status among Brooklyn buses.
With or without the worst actor in the NBA as a running mate.