The Nets have no chance of winning the NBA title without Kyrie Irving

There are a lot of NBA teams out there that would love to have some trouble with the Nets right now. We can start with the Knicks, back under .500 and back behind the play-in cup line, but there are plenty of other teams who wouldn’t mind waking up on Friday morning and finding the following things in their favor:

• First place in the East.

• A 17-8 record, worse than just three teams in the West (Golden State, Phoenix, Utah).

• Kevin Durant cashing your checks every first and fortnight of the month.

So yes: there will be no telethon organized for the Nets, even if they lost to the Rockets on Wednesday night (without Durant), even if they had the chance to escape their Texan double in Dallas and Houston with a split, with an intriguing road game in Atlanta coming up on Friday.

Still: 25 sets is 25 sets, and that’s enough sample size to make a simple statement:

The Nets need Kyrie Irving. They need him in their alignment. They’re definitely going to need him – assuming if he comes back and when he does return he’ll be a reasonable facsimile of his old self – in the playoffs. pretend playing without Irving is okay.

Or even reasonably optimistic.

Now watch: this isn’t exactly breaking news, okay? You remove one of the great players of any generation from any team, there will be consequences. And if Irving had injured his ankle or broken his wrist, one of the standard things that keep a star away from his team, there wouldn’t have been any extra later attached to that.

Filets Kyrie Irving
The Nets can’t win an NBA championship without Kyrie Irving.
Corey Sipkin

But this is not standard. It’s Irving making a choice – which is his right – at a time when such choices have a huge impact. Whether or not you agree with Irving’s decision which has already cost him over a quarter of a season, it’s impossible not to land on the same conclusion:

The Nets, minus Irving, won’t win an NBA title this year.

And that’s what the Nets are for, after all. They’ve been put together that way to play for titles – for multiple titles – and we already saw last spring how tricky a proposal is. The Nets had a shackled James Harden and an absent Irving thanks to a sprained ankle for most of the Milwaukee series. They lost that Milwaukee series. It’s a heartwarming tale to believe that it was just the time of the Bucks, that it just fulfilled Giannis Antetokounmpo’s basketball fate. It’s a sweet story.

Kevin Durant Nets
The Nets will always be fun with Kevin Durant, but they need Kyrie Irving.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

But if you’re a Nets fan, you know it differently. You know the Nets lost a basketball quarter-size before qualifying for the Eastern Finals, that if the Nets had been fully operational the Bucks would have watched the next two rounds at home.

Specifically: the Nets have to believe it too.

Because they didn’t just see a gold covered path to the title evaporate on them last year, they’re on the exact same journey now. The Nets win 68% of their games, and if they keep going, they’ll win 56, which will see them placed in the top three, and with a full arsenal, it’s a good place to be.

But the Nets are winning 0% of their games, so far, against one of the very strong teams in the league – they’re 0-6 against the Bucks, Bulls, Heat, Suns and Warriors. Even without Irving, you have to believe the Nets will find a way to win a few of these games the rest of the way.

But when do they need it?

Without Irving running the show?

No chance. Not a prayer. They will remain a fun team to watch every night as Durant is still the greatest player on Earth, and there are plenty of times he and Harden can team up to take your breath away and get you to leap to your feet, stolen moments when the Nets can still look like the best basketball show around.

But champions?

Without Irving?

No shooting.




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