The Brooklyn Nets seemingly hit the free agency jackpot, landing both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in an open market littered with NBA superstars.
What could go wrong?
Well, it’s fair to expect Brooklyn to take a step forward in 2019-20, even if Durant misses all or most of the season thanks to the ruptured Achilles he suffered during the NBA Finals. But let’s not forget Irving is coming off a tumultuous two-year run with the Boston Celtics in which his leadership constantly was criticized, and the Nets — like the point guard’s former employer — have a roster loaded with young, up-and-coming players.
Nick Wright explained Wednesday on FS1’s “First Things First” that the “most legitimate concern” for Irving’s first season with the Nets involves chemistry. Irving must prove the same problems that plagued him in Boston won’t follow him to Brooklyn.
“The most legitimate concern is: Can Kyrie avoid the mistakes he made in Boston?,” Wright said. “The fact that he chose this place gives him a greater chance of avoiding those mistakes. The fact that he made those mistakes there and hopefully has learned from them gives him a better chance of avoiding those pitfalls. But if this first year does not go the way it should — and I’m not talking about win total; things can happen in that regard — and we’re hearing the same things out of the locker room, some of the same leadership (concerns) and tension and all these issues, that is an indictment on Kyrie. It is on Kyrie Irving to remind everyone who he’s been on the court and have that be the story exclusively.”
Irving requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2017, in large because he wanted to escape LeBron James’ shadow. He appeared to land in a great situation given the Celtics’ recent success and strong core, but Irving never quite fit in with Boston, much to the organization’s detriment.
Now, Irving will have a chance to prove himself in a new location, just as the Celtics will have an opportunity to show his departure is addition by subtraction. Boston’s bounce-back bid should be helped substantially by Kemba Walker, who agreed to a four-year, $141 million contract with the Celtics in free agency.