The Brooklyn Nets big 3 of Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, and Kyrie Irving are like that kid who has all the potential in the world, and if only he or she would focus, they could be great beyond measure.
As the NBA gears up for its upcoming 2022-2023 season, the superstar create-a-team looks like a juggernaut on paper but as sports often remind us – games aren’t played on paper – they’re played with people and each of the Nets veteran big 3 brings their own baggage to Brooklyn.
Over the summer, Kevin Durant, one of the highest skilled and most dominant hoopers of all time, attempted to get his head coach, Steve Nash, fired in a “he-goes-or-I-go” trade demand that in the end, left himself and Nash at the same place they started. Frustrated by his lack of team success, Durant shifted the blame as he’s yet to prove he can lead a team to an NBA title without the help of a superstar talent like Steph Curry and while his teammate Kyrie Irving is nothing to sneeze it, he too, comes with issues.
After spending most of last year rebelling against the NBA’s covid policy, the often-absent Irving returned to the Nets during the later half of the season only to be bounced out of the first round playoffs (with Durant) in a stunning sweep against the Boston Celtics. Though a master of the game, Irving has yet to prove he can win anything meaningful without LeBron James by his side, all while carrying the bravado of an all-time leader and philosophical shaman.
And then there’s Ben Simmons. The last time NBA fans saw Simmons on the court he was afraid to take a lay up, let alone an actual jump shot. After recently citing his own mental health as a contributing factor to his decline in play, Simmons states he didn’t feel wholly supported by his previous team, the Philadelphia 76ers.
The last season he played, Ben Simmons took just 9% of his shots from beyond 10 feet and while jump shooting has never been an asset to his game, Nash has already built in an excuse for the injury-prone and tension-melting Simmons. Nash recently said, “I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot for the Brooklyn Nets.”
A former 3-time All-Star, Simmons’ talent once stood for itself, however, after being exposed on the court, many have soured on his abilities and what he can actually bring to a team.
The pressures that come along with being an NBA star are relentless – between the meme’s, crowd jeers, and internal pressure from the organization, I’m sure Simmons has heard and felt it all. However, the likes of Paul George once suffered the same fan alienation and ridicule but he came back better and silenced those very screaming doubters.
As one of the 75th greatest players in NBA history, even LA Laker guard and hometown hero, Russell Westbrook has had to deal with constant heckling, trade rumors, and media backlash after his poor play throughout the 2021 season. For Westbrook, like Simmons, the only solution is to simply come back better than they left.
However, by Nash preemptively allowing Simmons not to shoot the ball in a sport that counts wins and losses based on your ability to score more points than other team, he is being set up for failure by an organization without accountability.
As talented as many team in the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets have an opportunity to right the wrongs of the last season, however, it won’t come without sacrifice and an ego-check from all three of their biggest names.