NBA news: What’s next for the Brooklyn Nets after play-off collapse?
The Brooklyn Nets went into the season as clear title favourites, only to suffer a humiliating 4-0 defeat in the first play-off round against the Boston Celtics.
With a 'Big Three' of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden heading into the season, many expected the Nets to contend for the best NBA record of all-time, previously set by the 2015/16 Golden State Warriors side who went 73-9.
However, Irving's refusal to get vaccinated caused him to miss most of the season, which played a part in Harden wanting out of Brooklyn. His distaste for head coach Steve Nash's rotations didn't help either.
The drama doesn't end there. Ben Simmons, who was the centrepiece of the Harden trade to the Philadelphia 76ers, is now dealing with a back injury and mental health issues, which prevented him from playing in a single game despite initial hope that he would return for game four of the Nets' first-round series.
Simmons deserves empathy and grace, and everyone should hope he can get back to his optimal self. In order for Simmons to return to his best, the Nets will need to be patient and protect him from storylines that could derail his reputation.
Can Durant and Irving still win a championship in Brooklyn?
If you were to pose this question any time in the last three years, the answer would be a foregone conclusion that it will indeed happen.
However, with the uncertainty surrounding Simmons's future, combined with the questions surrounding Nash, it is now hard, if not impossible, to envision a scenario where the Nets could turn things around so quickly and win it all next season.
But at the very least, Irving, who is likely to test free agency this off-season, seems committed to turning things around in Brooklyn.
"I don't really plan on going anywhere," Irving said. "When I say I'm here with Kevin, I think that it really entails us managing this franchise together alongside Joe (Tsai) and Sean (Marks) … Just our group of family members that we have in our locker room, in our organization."
Irving also admitted that he felt he let the team down at times throughout the season because of his unavailability. The 30-year-old missed much of the season due to New York City's vaccine mandate.
It's refreshing to see Irving committed to the team and admitting his absence hurt their cause. But if he truly wants to turn this thing around as soon as next season, he has to do everything he can to make himself available without any distractions.