The Brooklyn Nets are projected to compete for a championship this season with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving leading the offense. Durant looks like the same player he’s always been despite coming off an Achilles tear, while Irving remains one of the best point guards in the NBA.
Through the team’s first 11 games of the 2020-21 season, though, the Nets don’t look like title contenders, and now Kevin Durant and Co. are dealing with the fact that Kyrie Irving is away from the club.
The Nets don’t have good chemistry on the court
The Nets are averaging 118.5 points per game on the season, which is good for third in the NBA. However, their defense has been putrid. Steve Nash’s group is giving up 113.0 points a night, 22nd in the NBA.
In the early parts of the season, it’s evident that the Nets don’t have good chemistry on the court. After starting the campaign with two blowout wins over the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics, the Nets have lost to the Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, and Oklahoma City Thunder. While Brooklyn has wins over the Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers and defeated the Hawks before losing to them the second time around, the team may have been crowned Eastern Conference champions too early by the pundits.
Now, it’s worth mentioning that Kevin Durant missed a few games due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. The Nets are also missing Kyrie Irving, who is dealing with some personal things off the court.
Kyrie Irving is on personal leave
Kyrie Irving has missed three straight games for the Nets, as the All-Star is on personal leave. According to Brian Lewis of the New York Post, Irving’s absence is related to the riots at the US Capitol by Donald Trump supporters.
Although Kevin Durant returned to the Nets’ lineup against the Thunder and scored 36 points, Brooklyn still lost. It was a bad loss for the Nets, considering the Thunder are rebuilding after trading Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder, and Steven Adams in the offseason.
Irving has appeared in seven games this season. He’s averaging 27.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists while shooting 50.4% from the field and 42.6% from beyond the arc. The Nets are 4-3 with Irving in the lineup and have only won one game without him. While Durant is the best player on the team, Irving may be the most important figure since he’s the point guard.
Nets head coach Steve Nash says the club will respect Irving’s privacy and give the one-time champion all the time he needs before coming back to the team. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving’s closest friend on the Nets, believes Uncle Drew will soon return to the club.
Kevin Durant supports Kyrie Irving 100%
After the Nets lost to the Thunder, Kevin Durant said Kyrie Irving should be back “soon.” However, the two-time Finals MVP admitted he’s not going to speak for Irving.
“I wouldn’t speak for Kyrie, I’ll let him do that for himself. I’m sure you guys will see him soon after he comes back,” Durant said. “We support him 100 percent and pray for the best. I can’t speak for everybody. I don’t know how guys are handling this situation. But guys feel excited to come into work and excited to play.”
Irving was one of the main players against the bubble games at Walt Disney World taking place since a police officer murdered George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor’s murderers weren’t being charged. After what happened at the US Capitol, it’s understandable why Irving is upset.
Moving forward, it’s going to be interesting to see when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will take the floor as teammates again. The Nets are certainly hoping it’s sooner rather than later since they are struggling without Irving.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.