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NBA: What's gone wrong for Brooklyn Nets?

Brooklyn Nets have been among the favourites to win the championship before each of the last two seasons but now the franchise appears to be in complete disarray.

The captures of Kyrie Irving and then Kevin Durant in the 2019 offseason signalled their intent, despite the fact the latter was quickly ruled out for the entirety of the 2019-2020 campaign after sustaining an Achilles injury during the 2019 NBA Finals with Golden State Warriors.

Going into the 2020-21 season and with both Irving and Durant fit, Brooklyn had high expectations and the arrival of 2018 MVP James Harden from Houston Rockets in January further strengthened their championship chances.

Brooklyn now had what, on paper at least, appeared to be one of the strongest big threes in NBA history and it looked to be a case of when, not if, they would claim a title.

However, injuries impacted their chances and they were ultimately eliminated in the 2021 playoffs by eventual champions Milwaukee Bucks in the conference semi-finals in seven games.

Losing to the Bucks was a setback but confidence remained high ahead of the 2021-22 campaign and Durant agreed a four-year extension during the offseason. 

However, it was revealed that Irving would be ineligible for home games and then the Nets decided he wouldn't play in road games either, while Harden left for Philadelphia 76ers in February with Ben Simmons heading in the opposite direction.

Brooklyn's big three had been broken up, Simmons didn't feature at all last season for either Philadelphia or Brooklyn due to what are perhaps best described as personal reasons, and Durant was limited to 55 games due to various injury issues of his own.

The Nets did reach the playoffs in 2022, via the play-in tournament, but they were eliminated in four games by Boston Celtics in the first round - just one year after beating the same opponents in five games. 

Now Harden is gone and Durant and Irving are keen to secure moves as well, leaving Brooklyn's championship dreams in tatters and facing the prospect of a rebuild as  they are +1600 to win the NBA Finals in 2023. So what did go wrong for the franchise?

Brooklyn's big three never had a chance to gel

The most obvious reason as to why Brooklyn's 'super-team' failed to deliver is the fact they never managed a consistent run of games with their big three. 

As a trio, they played just 16 games together in total - posting a 13-3 record which suggests they could have been incredible if circumstances had been different.

Harden's departure midway through last season came as a surprise at the time, but in hindsight it possibly suggests he had an idea of what kind of storm was brewing in Brooklyn.

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Relationships between players and management have soured

Any team with star players needs to find a way to balance the power dynamic between the leaders on court and the franchise management. 

Exactly what has happened at the Nets is unclear, but what is painfully obvious is there has been a huge breakdown in the relationships between Durant and Irving and the coaching setup and general management.

Former MVP Steve Nash was brought in as Nets head coach in 2020, after Irving and Durant had signed, and the general feeling was he was the man the two players wanted. 

That is no longer the case, and there are unconfirmed reports that Durant has issued an ultimatum to the team essentially saying 'either keep Nash and general manager Sean Marks, or me'.

Irving's breakdown seemingly stems from the fact he made himself unavailable to play and felt he wasn't supported by the team in his decision, despite the fact it was a New York City mandate he refused to comply with rather than anything Brooklyn had any control over.

Durant and Irving have never been easy individuals to manage over the course of their careers but both have still been key men in successful teams. 

Durant is a two-time champion and two-time Finals MVP from his time with Golden State Warriors, while Irving won the championship with LeBron James at Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 and is a seven-time All-Star. 

In this regard, the Nets have been incredibly unlucky that circumstances have conspired against them

Lack of clarity over the Nets' situation

As an organisation, Brooklyn Nets have been tight-lipped over the situations of both Durant and Irving and the players have given little away as to why they want to leave. 

As such, pointing out any one particular reason as to what has gone wrong is impossible and everything is essentially speculation.

There have even been reports that Durant would rather retire than play for the Nets again and, although that does seem an unlikely scenario, that does give an indication as to how big of a mess Brooklyn are having to deal with.

As yet no realistic trades appear close for either Durant or Irving and any kind of resolution could still be some distance away.

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