After going all-in for James Harden at the trade deadline last season, the Brooklyn Nets arguably formed the most talented Big 3 in NBA history. After all, they had two former MVPs in Kevin Durant and Harden, to go along with Kyrie Irving, who is a superstar in his own right.
Despite only playing a total of 13 games together, the Nets finished the season as the second seed and were seemingly cruising through the playoffs. To start out, they beat Boston in five games in the first round and were up 2-0 against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The problem was, Kyrie Irving went down against the Bucks with an ankle injury, and James Harden was dealing with a lingering hamstring issue. Due to these injuries, the Nets were limited in what they could do on the court.
Durant had to carry the burden offensively and nearly took down the Bucks single-handedly. Unfortunately, however, he came up short in overtime of a Game 7.
It is plausible to assume that the injuries to the Nets stars were self-inflicted, particularly in the case of James Harden. After all, Harden looked overweight and out of shape coming into training camp for the Rockets last season. Maybe it was his way of forcing his way out of Houston, but in this case, it looked like it backfired on him.
It is difficult to expect your body to respond to the game speed of the NBA, especially in the playoffs when you are not in tip-top shape.
In the case of Kyrie Irving, he was absent for a stretch of games during the regular season for an undisclosed personal matter. Even though we never got an official word for why Irving was gone, it seemed as if his mind was focused on other things outside of basketball.
It is possible to believe that Irving felt more comfortable taking this leave of absence on a team where Kevin Durant and James Harden are on the roster.
Even though his freak ankle injury is not correlated to his leave of absence, it showed that there was a level of complacency that took place.
Basketball is a sport where chemistry is incredibly important. No matter how talented you are, it is crucial to have everyone on the team on board, especially your superstars.
Despite Durant never vocally displaying his displeasure with Irving and Harden, I am sure he felt disappointed in their decision-making.
Coming into this season, Brooklyn’s expectations are at an all-time high. Even though the regular season may not seem important for a team like the Nets, they do need to take it seriously and gain chemistry throughout their entire roster.
I expect Steve Nash and company to take last season as a learning experience and approach this season a lot more seriously with his three stars coming back. Anything short of a championship will be a disappointment for the Nets.
After all, they are favored against the entire league, including the Los Angeles Lakers led by LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook.
I expect Brooklyn to not only make the NBA Finals but win it all if they are able to stay healthy. Kevin Durant showed last year why he is arguably the best player in basketball.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook will be as motivated as ever as well, considering they have never won an NBA championship. Look for the Nets to live up to the hype everyone was talking about when the three ultimately joined forces.