Ultimately, the Brooklyn Nets turned from preseason betting title favorites into a $266 million failure.
After being swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round, the Nets became the first NBA team — dating back to 1984-85 — to begin a campaign as a consensus sportsbook championship favorite (+225) and win exactly zero playoff games, according to NBA writer Josh Eberley.
The Nets, who needed to win a play-in game to secure the No. 7 seed in the East, were the most wagered team at PointsBet Sportsbook to win the title, per ESPN, with 32.7% of the handle. But Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving went 0-4.
Johnny Avello, director of race and sports operations for DraftKings, told PlayNY:
“It wasn’t that surprising to see the Celtics win the series as they played some of the best basketball in the league down the stretch. It was quite shocking to see the Nets drop four straight — I didn’t see that coming.
“In their defense, they gave up an everyday player in (James) Harden in exchange for a never-see-a-minute player in (Ben) Simmons.”
Will Brooklyn Nets have another shot at NBA title?
After a year in which they were a shoe-size away from defeating eventual champion Milwaukee, Brooklyn was marred by Irving’s anti-vaccination stance, the Harden-Simmons deal and taking an arrogant/indifferent approach to the regular season, which — combined with the brilliance of Jayson Tatum — led to its early postseason ouster.
Even if they open the 2022-23 season as NY sports betting favorites, who knows how long the Nets’ title window will stay open? If it hasn’t already closed. On paper, Brooklyn could come back strong with Durant, Irving, Ben Simmons and Joe Harris, the desperately missed low-maintenance sharpshooter. But, as always, things are complicated, and the House of Cards could easily crumble once again, given all the egos involved.
After doing his damnedest to sabotage the season, Irving baffled some in the organization, league sources said, with his postgame line about his “co-management relationship” with the team. What his next Nets contract will look like remains a question — whether it will be a long-term max or some sort of shorter structure that factors in his yearly organizational headaches and missed work.
Ex-player analysts Kendrick Perkins and Brian Scalabrine have called for Durant to request a trade out of town. That would surprise given his love of New York and his business venture headquartered in the Big Apple. What would be better is if he’d simply taken Irving to task at some point rather than enable his BFF.
KD is one of the greatest scorers/players, but his Brooklyn legacy is in question. Harden didn’t do himself any favors by coming into training camp out of shape. But after single-handedly carrying the Nets last season when Irving was MIA, Harden was smart to get out given Irving’s selfishness. Durant has always sided with Irving. Whether that works out remains to be seen.
What future holds for Nets leadership
Sean Marks, Brooklyn’s general manager, has always preached culture, culture, culture. And now, he presides over a team that has become the gold standard for dysfunction.
It doesn’t seem like Marks will get the Kenny Atkinson — “Thanks for all your contributions, see ya later, it had absolutely nothing to do with KD and Kyrie” — treatment. Though it’s fair to wonder after this massive failure whether he should. Even after expediting this improbable rebuild, Marks has one singular playoff series win to his name, with his failure of a team taking a massive step backward.
Either way, the Nets will hire a new CEO. Marks hasn’t meshed with the previous two. It’s fair to wonder whether the new CEO will try to exert some influence in basketball operations.
Coach Steve Nash may not be a mastermind in terms of Xs and Os. But the Nets brought him in to let the two iso stars isolate, defend them seemingly at all costs, and provide a human shield for Marks, peddling the GM’s public misinformation campaign on the daily. Nash has done just that. The franchise’s messaging on myriad issues has been nothing short of embarrassing.
Looking into NBA offseason for Brooklyn Nets
Simmons could be a lynchpin in everything with his size, defensive versatility and playmaking ability. His mental health issues (as serious as mental health situations are) and back issues have been consistently questioned, though. Is this someone others can count on and trust? Simmons, with three years still left on his deal, hasn’t shown any indication that the answer is yes.
On the asset front, the Nets got a pair of first-round picks in the Harden-Simmons blockbuster that they could look to deal for more immediate help. They need bigger wings, and at least another big man. They also need more leadership. Way more leadership.
Retaining Bruce Brown could cost Brooklyn between $12 million and $14 million per year, according to ESPN. The Nets can also extend Seth Curry and Nic Claxton. They will presumably need to replace veterans Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Goran Dragic.
ESPN projects team owner Joe Tsai could end up spending upward of $345 million in salary and luxury taxes on next season’s roster. After kowtowing to Irving, Tsai claimed he did so because his only religion is winning. Yet Tsai paid $266 million in 2021-22 for an all-time failure.
Who will be the fall guy? What changes are coming? We’ll find out as this dysfunctional franchise tries to right itself.