With hubris, he declared victory before the first
Intoxicated by his hopes and aspirations, on that day in Miami,
LeBron James defiantly counted, laughing at five and scoffing at
With Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh flanking him, he envisioned two
hands worth of championship rings and predicted that the actual
games would be “the easy part.”
Eventually, though, the young King would learn the valuable
lesson that many of his predecessors did: assembling the talent is
the easy part. Convincing Lady Luck and Father Time to bless you at
the same time — that’s the true challenge.
The Brooklyn Nets are learning that, firsthand.
It’s been a long 30 months since Kyrie Irving walked across the
Brooklyn Bridge with Kevin Durant in tow. Remarkably, it’s already
been a full year since James Harden found his way to Barclays
Center to join them.
And just as remarkable is the fact that the trio has played
together a grand total of just 15 times — eight times during the
2020-21 season, five games in last year’s postseason and a grand
total of twice in 2021-22.
It’s not exactly a good sign.
Whether it be a busted Achilles, a hamstring, an ankle, an MCL
or refusal to get vaccinated, Brooklyn simply hasn’t been able to
consistently field its trio.
In pro basketball, chemistry and the ability to work together is
just as important as talent. Maybe the tide will turn and Durant,
Irving and Harden will have the opportunity to develop the cohesion
necessary to thrive and accomplish something great. But it’s far
from a given at this point; there just always seems to be
something standing in their way.
The latest bump in the road is a sprained MCL suffered on the
part of Durant, who the team has only declared to be out
“indefinitely.” While it’s entirely possible that Durant could
return to action soon, it’s equally possible that he could be
sidelined for as many as six weeks, according to
the New York Post. And considering Durant’s age and the Nets’
conservative approach with its star, we’d be wise to take the
Six weeks from the day Durant suffered the injury would bring us
to Feb. 26, the date on which the Nets coincidentally happen to be
in Milwaukee to take on Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Bucks.
Including that game, the Nets will have just 10 road games
remaining. That’s obviously important considering Irving remains
ineligible for home games because of his vaccination status. And
he’s not any closer to getting jabbed now than he was at the
beginning of the season.
Said differently, it’s entirely possible that Brooklyn’s Big 3
will enter the 2021-22 postseason having played together about 25
times, and that’s essentially a best-case scenario based on what we
At this point in their partnership, we’re somehow still able to
easily keep count of the number of games that they’ve played
together, and teams that end up winning championships don’t
typically have that problem. If anything, it’s the opposite.
Sure, there will always be teams like the 2008 Boston Celtics,
but most other teams who manage to win-out are teams like the
Bucks, the Toronto Raptors and the pre-Durant Golden State
Warriors. Champions typically are built, brick-by-brick and one day
at a time. Guys don’t typically show up to the gym, build a bomb
squad and then achieve at the highest level. It just doesn’t
usually work like that. Teams scratch and claw their way to
The Nets are trying to glide their way there.
Obviously, Brooklyn has enough talent to buck the trend, but the
other things that are required — chemistry, cohesion, synergy and
good fortune — have simply been missing from their equation. And
it’s a shame.
Through the first half of the 2021-22 season, Kevin Durant has
somehow managed to make us all forget that he’s human. At 33 years
old, with the mileage on his odometer and an injury that’s caused
the sun to set on his predecessors, he’s had no problem helping us
Ironically, as he, Harden and Irving have been cycled in and out
of the lineup, Sean Marks has managed to find difference-making
supporting players. Whether it be Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert or
Joe Harris and Nicolas Claxton, the Nets always seem to have the
infantry ready. They’ve been missing the captains.
Perhaps what’s most frustrating is the fact that no amount of
basketball talent will carry you through if the stars don’t align
for you. And after so long, it’s fair to wonder whether they’ll
ever align in Brooklyn. Especially as Durant heals and Irving and
Harden each play out what could be — in theory — their final season
When it was all said and done for LeBron in Miami, the Heat had
won the Eastern Conference four consecutive times and had two
championships to show for it.
It wasn’t seven, but on the route from pre-championship pep
rally in Miami back to Cleveland, LeBron learned a valuable lesson:
winning in the NBA is no accident. Getting talented teammates is
the easy part.
Everything else — including the things you can’t control — is
what makes it really tough.
Sadly, through the lens of Kevin Durant and his star-crossed
union with Kyrie Irving and James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets are
learning that firsthand.