NEW YORK — Just four seasons ago, the Brooklyn Nets were mostly considered inept, devoid of talent and, like their cross-borough counterpart the New York Knicks, not taken seriously in NBA circles.
To change fortunes in hurry, draft picks have to pan out and free agents have to view the team as a destination.
Kenny Atkinson came in as coach, and later Jacque Vaughn, and did a commendable job getting the team to two straight playoff appearances. Amid rumors of player discontent, Atkinson was fired after exiting in the first round each time.
Before Atkinson’s last season in 2019-20, the Nets got the help they needed through shrewd wheeling and dealing that allowed the flexibility to open up much needed cap space.
Kevin Durant was the first domino to fall after his three-year stint with the Golden State Warriors when he signed a four-year, $164 million contract with Brooklyn.
A FANTASTIC GAME 7 FINISH… relive the best plays down the stretch as the @Bucks outlasted Brooklyn in an OT thriller! #ThatsGame
Milwaukee advances to the #NBAECF presented by AT&T… they will play the winner of ATL/PHI. #NBAPlayoffspic.twitter.com/TLSjhqGV5v
Kyrie Irving joined the fray when was traded from the Boston Celtics after two turbulent seasons. But Irving played only 20 games in the pandemic-shortened season and Durant missed the whole campaign rehabbing the torn Achilles he suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals.
Hall of Famer Steve Nash, who had no head coaching experience at any level, was brought in to expound his vast knowledge of the game as a two-time MVP and manage millionaire egos.
James Harden was acquired early this season from Houston as part of a four-team blockbuster. But over the latter part of the season, the three All-Stars rarely played together, each nursing various injuries and limiting any chance of chemistry.
The lack of cohesion showed Saturday in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Milwaukee Bucks. The crux of the Nets' offense late in the first half on three straight possessions was Durant with the ball with a teammate on the same side of the court trying to set a pick. When that didn’t work, the screening player maneuvered his way over to join his other three teammates and let Durant take his defender one-on-one and hope magic happened. In Game 7, it almost did.
None of that matters now, as the star-studded Nets are headed home for the summer with plenty of time to contemplate what if and what could have been. A Game 7 loss at home simply came at the wrong time.
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