The champion is health: 2022 Brooklyn Nets season preview


Erik Drost

Erik Drost | Wikimedia Commons

Muhamet Hadzibrahimi

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are two future hall-of-fame basketball players that many assume would have won a championship together by now.

But the biggest problem is that both superstars have only played together a total of 44 games in the last three seasons with the Brooklyn Nets.  Imagine the great accomplishments they could achieve with a full 82 games alongside each other.

Durant is still one of the most diverse scorers in the NBA, with 2021 averages of nearly 30 points a game on an impressive 52% field goal shooting. After an Achilles injury made him miss the 2019 season, Durant finds himself wondering whether he can sustain the pains of a full NBA season.

Durant played 55 games last season, leading the Nets to the seventh seed. Irving, however, missed more time, playing in only 29 regular season games. The Nets were swept in four games by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics. With both healthy for most of that playoff series, the Nets understand that their stars need more time to build cohesiveness.

The seven-time All-Star and 2016 NBA Champion Kyrie Irving presented problems for the Nets last season, ranging from an injury in the pivotal last playoff game to sitting out a majority of the season due to being unvaccinated.

In Game 2 of the Celtics series, Irving, a converted Muslim, decided to go through with fasting for Ramadan during the first half. The move was criticized by many basketball fans who believed a fully energized Irving would have helped liftthe Nets past the Celtics. These occurrences have made Irving a tricky personality to gauge, but his talent continues to make the Nets a title contender.

The drama culminated this past offseason when Durant requested a trade. This news shocked the NBA world as someone of Durant’s caliber rarely requests a trade. Luckily for General Manager Sean Marks, Durant is on contract with the Nets for the next four seasons.

A Durant trade is highly unlikely and would only occur if several factors play out. The Nets would want a haul of first round picks and all-star caliber players for Marks to even pick up the phone. Durant refusing to play in conjunction with the trade request may also drive the Nets’ front office to take action.

Regardless of what comes of the Durant trade drama, the current Nets roster has improved. Returning from a back injury and struggles with his mental health, Ben Simmons looks to dominate in a reduced role playing behind Durant and Irving. Simmons will be asked to be the triple-double threat and defensive stopper he was with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Other additions Nets fans should be excited about are TJ Warren and Royce O’Neale. The Nets have more options at the forward position in addition to their important rotational guards like Seth Curry, Joe Harris, and Patty Mills. All of these role players have a strong ability to defend or shoot the three-pointers at a high level.

To make a run at their first championship since 1976, the Nets’ stars must stay healthy. No one can deny the potential this team has when its key players are available.