Kyle Penix, CW
Well, it’s happened before — sort of. The Nets franchise — then called the New York Nets, won two American Basketball Association titles in 1974 and 1976 led by legend Julius Erving before the ABA-NBA merger at the conclusion of the ‘76 season. However, since joining the newly formed league, the Nets have been an up-and-down team.
The team has often struggled to make it through the first round of the NBA playoffs or to even make the playoffs at all. The closest the Nets have ever come to winning an NBA title is a throwback to when Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd’s 2002 and 2003 teams advanced to the NBA Finals twice in two amazing back-to-back seasons. Unfortunately, rollercoaster seasons followed, and in an effort to revitalize the team, the Nets moved to Brooklyn for the first time in 2012.
Superteams aren’t new in professional basketball. However, the team that has been built in the last two years in Brooklyn is scary. The roster is loaded with talent and experience that the Nets franchise has never had in its entire history. The star trio of players on the Nets’ roster that has been the primary buzz this year consists of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Their accompanied accolades and achievements are highly notable and are a valid reason enough for the resulting optimism. In particular, Durant and Harden, alongside former teammate Russell Westbrook, starred together for the Oklahoma City Thunder for several years at the beginning of their careers in the NBA. Durant and Harden would eventually part ways to find success with new teams. Durant won two NBA titles with the Golden State Warriors, and Harden became the face of the franchise for the Houston Rockets, leading them to multiple playoff appearances. As for Irving, he won a title with former teammate Lebron James as a key member of the Cleveland Cavaliers before being traded to the Boston Celtics. All three found themselves playing together for the first time in 2021 in a city and for a team desperate for a title.
Brooklyn’s coaching staff are also no strangers to winning professional basketball games. The coaching staff is led by Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash as head coach. Nash helped Durant win both of his titles in 2017 and 2018 as a consultant after he retired in 2015 from the Lakers. Reuniting with Nash for the third time in his basketball career but as an assistant coach is Mike D’Antoni. Nash and D’Antoni have been a force together in the NBA, winning many games as a part of the organizations for the Suns and the Lakers. D’Antoni also coached Harden the past four seasons as head coach of the Rockets. He led the Rockets to the highest winning percentage in the Western Conference over the past four years (.682), trailing only the Toronto Raptors (.695) in the entire league according to ESPN.
Despite playing with significant challenges this year such as Durant being injured, Harden joining as a somewhat late addition, Irving taking several personal leave-of-absences and the battle to overcome the lack of reps together on the court, the Nets still came in only second place behind the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn dominated other teams this season and broke several franchise records along the way. The Nets earned a 48-24 record as the league’s top offense to conclude their regular season and notably achieved their highest ever winning percentage of .667%, beating the .634% record set by Kidd in the 2002 season.
It’s also important to mention that the team was strengthened further by other recent additions: center Deandre Jordan, hybrid power forward Blake Griffin and power forward Jeff Green. The team is a nightmare to play against, and other teams will have their work cut out for them in the playoffs.
The Nets will face Boston for their first playoff game on Saturday, May 22. The big-three is fully healthy and eager to prove the doubters wrong. Expectations are as high as they’ve ever been for the Nets, and it’s about time they win big.