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Should You Buy Into Nets Hype?

   Should You Buy Into Nets Hype?

January 15, 2021

The last time - the only time in fact - that the Brooklyn Nets won a championship, it was three team names and two leagues ago.

In 1975-76, the American Basketball Association bid adieu with its farewell season. Four teams - the New York Nets, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers - were absorbed into the NBA. The other ABA squads - the Kentucky Colonels, Virginia Squires and the Spirits of St. Louis - faded into oblivion, never to be heard from again. That spring, as America celebrated its Bicentennial, the Nets won the ABA championship, defeating the Nuggets in a six-game final series. It remains the only title won by the franchise.

They became the New Jersey Nets in 1977 and the Brooklyn Nets in 2012, but what they never seemed to achieve was relevance - until now. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving leading a deep squad, the Nets are being looked upon as legitimate contenders in Las Vegas NBA finals odds. Brooklyn is currently listing at a betting line of +550. That makes the Nets the favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference and reach the NBA Finals.

new jersey nets vs san antonio spurs
"New Jersey Nets vs. San Antonio Spurs" by Wikimedia is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A Matching Pair

People seemed ready for the Durant-Irving duo to be somewhat less than dynamic. For two guys who both liked to score the basketball, would there be enough chances with the rock during a game to keep each of them happy?

So far, so good. In fact, when together the pairing appears to be working quite well. Durant, who sat out all last season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals when he was with the Golden State Warriors, looks to have healed just fine. And Durant at 100 percent gives the Nets one of the elite of the NBA’s upper echelon among their starting five.

“It’s always been my goal to be among the best,” Durant told the YES Network. Most would argue he’s already achieved that objective. Durant is a two-time NBA champion with Golden State, (2017, 2018). He was voted NBA Finals MVP both years. In 2013-14, Durant was named MVP while playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. That same season, the six-time All-NBA First Team selection led the league in scoring, averaging 32 points per game.

As for Irving, being the secondary piece looks to be a better fit for his personality. He won an NBA title with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, willingly letting the spotlight shine on LeBron James.

Irving has averaged 22.4 points per game as an NBA player. He lit it up at 27.4 ppg last season, his first with the Nets, albeit a campaign in which he was limited to just 20 games by injury.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Irving told Sports Illustrated of his teaming with Durant in Brooklyn. “And I’m grateful that we could let our games do the talking. But I’m also grateful that we can have relationships here that matter off the court, that help us on the court.”

new jersey nets vs new york knicks
"New Jersey Nets vs. New York Knicks" by Wikimedia is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Nets Have Depth

Any discussion of the Nets must include their unique hire at head coach, former NBA MVP Steve Nash. He seems to be the one person willing to temper the early enthusiasm. “I just don’t want to necessarily expect that every night is gonna be amazing,” Nash said.

A reason to expect that the Nets are legit is that this is a team from top to bottom. Yes, they have the two superstars - a necessity for long-term NBA success - but they also have a squad with great depth, a history of overachieving and arguably the deepest bench in the league. Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie are borderline all-stars.

For sure, there are reasons why it could all go off the rails. Both Durant and Irving have histories of serious injury. Nash is a first-year coach. Yet there’s already a sense that this is a team on a mission.

“We’ve just gone through some challenging times,” Irving said, “And we’re able to put on this uniform as a team together, while understanding that the more we stay collective as a group, the better off we'll be in the long run.

“We don’t want to let anything disrupt what we’ve got going on here or what our goals are. It’s simple - it’s a championship. So we gotta enjoy this regular season, but we’re just gonna enjoy every step of the journey, as well.”

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