As Brooklyn Nets fans saw during the 2021 NBA Playoffs, the most talented team doesn’t always win the championship. While a second-round defeat may have been a tough pill to swallow, the club’s brass seems to understand where they fell short and are taking a subtle step to address the issue.
This new acquisition, however, won’t be a fan favorite or ever suit up and hit the court. Instead, the Nets are actively searching for a head of performance therapy. That might not be the most exciting pick-up but, in a (soft) salary cap world, it’s a smart way for any team to flex its financial muscles.
Untimely injuries crushed the Brooklyn Nets’ championship dream
When you hit the hardwood with Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant in your starting lineup, anything short of a championship will be considered a failure. Based on that standard, the Brooklyn Nets came up well short of their target during the 2021 NBA postseason.
While facing the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round was admittedly a tough draw, the Nets did suffer some bad luck within the series. Harden injured his hamstring during the opening moments of Game 1. Although he did return to the court before the end of the round, he was clearly struggling. The guard later admitted that he was playing through a Grade 2 hamstring strain, although the team simply said he had “hamstring tightness.”
Although Durant and Irving were probably talented enough to help the Nets outlast Milwaukee, the point guard also suffered an unlucky ankle injury in Game Four, landing on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot. Kyrie didn’t return to action for the rest of the series, leaving Durant to carry the load for Brooklyn.
As we all know, the forward couldn’t do it alone. The Nets fell to the Bucks in seven games, ending their first season as a legitimate NBA power in disappointment rather than glory.
On the hunt for a head of performance therapy
While there’s admittedly an element of luck to any injury — if Giannis’ foot was a few inches to the left, for example, Irving could have walked away unharmed — it seems like the Nets have learned their lesson from the 2021 postseason. When the next campaign tips off, the club could have some extra firepower on the training staff.
On July 13, a LinkedIn post showing that BSE Global was looking to hire a head of performance therapy started making the rounds on social media. While that company might not ring a bell to the average basketball fan, it owns the Brooklyn Nets, the Barclays Center, and the WNBA’s New York Liberty.
Based on the job description — the posting lists “day to day management of all performance therapy and rehabilitation related issues” and “rehabilitation of all team players as required” as some of the role’s responsibilities — it’s easy to connect the dots between the opening and the way the Nets’ season ended. While we’re admittedly trafficking in hypotheticals, maybe a different training regime would have helped Harden avoid pushing his hamstring past the breaking point. Perhaps a different therapist could have lessened Irving’s recovery time, getting him back on the court for Game 7.
Even if a head of performance therapy isn’t a magic bullet, it’s a smart way for the Brooklyn Nets and Joe Tsai to spend some money
It goes without saying that Nets fans won’t get fired up over a new member of the team’s medical staff in the same way that they’d cheer the arrival of a star player. That doesn’t mean the move is a waste of time, though.
Even if an improved medical department wouldn’t have helped during the 2021 playoffs, bulking up that side of the organization is a smart move for just about any team. Even though the NBA has a soft salary cap, there’s a limit to how much talent you can legitimately cram onto the court at a time; in addition to the obscene luxury tax payments, some stars simply won’t want to be the fifth option on a super team. When it comes to areas like training facilities, coaching staff, or, in this case, medical personnel, though, owner Joe Tsai can flex his $11 billion net worth to his heart’s content.
Given that Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweeted that the role is a new position rather than a vacancy, it seems like Tsai is doing just that. If you’re that rich and want to build an NBA champion, why not spend a few extra grand to recruit the best support staff possible? At best, you’ll give your team a slight advantage. At worst, you’ll only have wasted a drop in the financial bucket.
Again, it is worth noting that a new head of performance therapy won’t magically guarantee the Nets a championship. Injuries will still happen, and health will also play a role for some other teams around the league. While the Los Angeles Lakers will need to acquire some additional talent, a healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis will cover plenty of flaws. Similarly, the Philadelphia 76ers have a Ben Simmons-sized elephant in the room, but Joel Embiid’s knee injury probably didn’t help matters.
Especially these days, the NBA is an arms race. The Brooklyn Nets have spent the big bucks to acquire three of the top talents in modern basketball. At this point, it only makes sense to cough up a bit of extra money to ensure they’re all in the best condition possible.