It wasn’t too long ago the Brooklyn Nets once again looked like an Eastern Conference contender, a team more than capable of challenging the Boston Celtics, who were on their own respective rampage through the NBA.
During a stretch from Nov. 27 to Jan. 8, the Nets won 18 of 20 games including 12 straight. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving had Brooklyn looking like so many believed it could look like. Durant’s injury Jan. 8 then caused the Nets to lose four of the next six games and a few weeks later contract talks between Irving and the organization reportedly went sideways and prompted his trade request.
And now the Nets, currently fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, seemingly have taken a significant step backward on the court.
Irving was traded to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday afternoon, as first reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The Mavericks gave up guard Spencer Dinwiddie, forward Dorian Finney-Smith, a 2029 first-round pick as well as second-round picks in 2027 and 2029 for Irving and veteran Markieff Morris. Neither Dinwiddie or Finney-Smith compare to Irving while future draft picks are out of sight, out of mind for others in the league.
Simply, it’s all good news for the Boston Celtics.
Irving’s trade request Friday was believed to be a positive development for Boston, especially given all the top contenders and betting favorites for the eight-time NBA All-Star seemed to be in the Western Conference. In that regard, Dallas’ main competition for Irving reportedly was the Los Angeles Lakers.
But Irving’s departure from the Eastern Conference confirms it. Because for all the controversy he creates, there’s no debating the talent he possesses. The Nets showed during that mid-December run that with a healthy Durant and Irving the superstar-led group was capable of contending and winning the top-loaded East. And the Celtics could have faced the Nets before the conference finals, too, either making for an earlier exit or difficult pre-finals series.
Well, it no longer feels that way. And that’s not even taking into account that Durant’s future might be more up in the air after Irving’s trade — at least one team thinks it could be the case.
Many feel the same way. Brooklyn dropped to 20-1 to win the NBA championship on DraftKings Sportsbook. The Nets also are +650 to win the Eastern Conference and well behind the Atlantic Division-favored Celtics (-650) to win the division at 25-1. Boston maintains the best prices to win both the East and Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The Celtics, who have defeated the Nets in all three meetings this season, will try to sweep the Irving-less group March 3. But when that time comes, it might have far less meaning given the trade of Irving.