There’s a new court design, a new city addition uniform and a new hope in the borough of Brooklyn. But with Kevin Durant likely to miss the entire 2019-20 NBA season, are the Nets doomed for a similar fate as the Kyrie led Boston Celtics of 2018-19?
The Houdini understands if you’re a Brooklyn Nets fan and you’re excited about having world class point guard Kyrie Irving on the roster heading into the upcoming season. Boston Celtics fans have certainly been in your shoes.
With six All-Star appearances and an NBA Championship to his name, it’s not hard to rank the 27-year-old in the upper echelon of the NBA. When it comes to Irving, no one can question his game. However, his leadership… now that’s another topic of discussion.
Leadership isn’t always tangible. Sometimes you need to judge players within the context of what is expected of them, and what they can actually deliver. With the Boston Celtics, Irving proved unfit for the task of elevating his two former under-23-phenom teammates, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Instead of exulting the pair, Brown found himself losing his starting spot (perhaps due to possible friction with Irving) and Tatum, after such a standout rookie campaign in 2017-18, simply seemed to plateau. Instead of seeing a sharp increase in counting stats, his numbers barely only marginally higher.
Worse yet, his 3-point percentage dropped down to earth after scorching opponents from that area at a 43% clip the season prior.
It’s apparent that Irving never displayed the necessary leadership (however you define it) for the Boston Celtics during his two-year stay. What’s to say he can usurp the collective leadership that was on display by the 2018-19 Brooklyn Nets?
On multiple occasions last season, you might have seen leadership displayed by D’Angelo Russell (who lead the Nets to a comeback victory over the Sacramento Kings via a 27-point fourth quarter), Caris LeVert (who downed the Knicks with a go-ahead bucket in the waining seconds last October) and Spencer Dinwiddie (who’s crunch time stats were even better than the reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo) on any given night.
It is a legitimate concern wondering whether or not Irving will take opportunities away from LeVert or Dinwiddie with Russell being dealt to the Golden State Warriors as part of the Durant sign-and-trade this offseason. As Brian Lewis of the New York Post framed it, Brooklyn had a nice thing going without any All-NBA superstars, let alone one who had a checkered history as a teammate:
Last year the Nets overcame so-so talent with superb chemistry. Now they hope adding to the former won’t ruin the latter. With Irving bringing a volatile mix, will the Nets’ cohesion be solid like last year, or just average? Or even bad, as it was in Irving’s disappointing final campaign in Boston?
Irving, armed with the ability for the first time in his career to pick a franchise, chose the Nets. He didn’t ask to be drafted by Cleveland. The Boston Celtics were only an option because they had the necessary assets and ready-made contending situation needed to make an Irving trade a reality. They were just one of his preferred trade destinations, as opposed to the Nets, who traded away their All-Star point guard to make room for him.
It truly is put up or shut up time for the mercurial former number one pick. With Durant out for the year, Irving will once again have the ball in his hands in almost any game-deciding situation. If he can’t keep the younger Nets satisfied with their role, Brooklyn will resemble something similar to what Celtics fans witnessed last season…just without an All-Star center in Al Horford and several could-be All-Stars in Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward.
If history is doomed to repeat itself, Dinwiddie will be a taller Terry Rozier with a better Twitter account. LeVert will be the next Brown, but with a fuller bank account. And the Brooklyn Nets franchise will become a toxic wasteland of squandered potential and underperformance just like 2018-19 Boston Celtics.