The Brooklyn Nets were eliminated Monday night in sad and depressing fashion. Swept at home with much of the crowd cheering for the Celtics. Swept at home after Kevin Durant missed a pivotal free throw. Swept at home with Kyrie Irving being outplayed by Marcus Smart. Swept at home after shrinking in this series like mental midgets.
There were many symbols of the disaster that unfolded for the Nets this season, too many to detail in this column space. All of them are unnerving to anybody with a stake in the future of this franchise. But none feel more ominous than the absence of Ben Simmons.
He was nowhere in sight on the Nets bench, not even to cheer on his teammates while wearing his customary DNP Elton John outfits. We were given a new reason Simmons wasn’t playing in Monday’s 116-112 defeat, an absence that ensured he missed this entire season. Simmons is apparently dealing with a mental issue, or, as coach Steve Nash vaguely referenced, “there’s a mental component to everything.”
We knew there might’ve been a problem with Simmons’ head space after his fallout in Philadelphia. It’s the basis for filing a grievance to recoup nearly $20 million in salary from the Sixers. Okay, fine. Except, three things: 1) GM Sean Marks should’ve considered this issue, along with Simmons’ propensity for back pain, before they traded for a player with three years left on a max contract, 2) Why should there be an expectation, following an entire year of being unable to play through this “mental component,” that Simmons will ever return to court, let alone at the same All-Star level of a couple seasons ago, and 3) the Nets and Steve Nash aren’t trustworthy. They’ve lost all credibility this season, and that’s not meant to be insensitive to whatever Simmons is going through. It’s meant to call out the Nets for their lies and misleading.
Take what they say with a grain of salt. That includes after Monday night’s loss, when Nash claimed that a team with title aspirations performed appropriately given the off-the-court drama. Nash’s bar was apparently lowered to the floor.
“When you add it up, it’s hard to say we underperformed,” Nash said.
Remember when Nash claimed everything was great with James Harden and he wasn’t going to be traded? About a week later, Harden was traded. Remember when Sean Marks and Joe Tsai hopped on their elevated horses and declared Kyrie Irving wouldn’t be accepted as a part-time player? You know the rest.
Irving’s decision to forgo the vaccine was always going to be judged by how the team performed in the playoffs, and Monday it was used as a reason for getting swept.
“It’s just really heavy emotionally this season. We all felt it,” Irving said. “I felt like I was really letting the team down when I couldn’t play. It became a distraction.”
Nash has fallen under heavy scrutiny, and rightfully so based on his underwhelming playoff series. But the problems go much deeper than the coach.
GM Sean Marks did a fine job building the foundation of a young team many years ago, riding the wave of Kenny Atkinson’s player development. And after Irving and Durant conspired to sign with Brooklyn in 2019, Marks still had solid young players and future first-round picks to flesh out a champion.
Except Marks bungled it.
The supporting cast around Durant and Irving is somehow worse than it was three years ago. Most of that is about the Simmons disaster, or the James Harden disaster — depending on how you’d like to assign blame.
Either way, the result was a first-round sweep, a year wasted and a missing Ben Simmons.
Source: Berkshire mont