If faculty basketball belongs to the coaches, the professional sport belongs to the males who’re being coached. The NBA is alleged to be a gamers’ league because of this:
The staff with the greatest gamers nearly at all times wins.
The Brooklyn Nets have the greatest assortment of gamers getting into the 2021 postseason. No, earlier than this weekend, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving had not appeared on the court docket collectively for 3 months. And no, their eighth sport as a holy hoops trinity — an uninspiring victory over the Chicago Bulls — did not reply the chemistry questions that lingered earlier than Harden sat out Sunday night’s 123-109 season-ending victory over Cleveland, formed by a Harlem Globetrotters-esque play that helped clinch the No. 2 seed in the East.
Harden’s hamstring ought to be good to go for the first-round matchup with both Boston or Washington. At this level, solely a big harm can alter the primary fact about who the Nets are, and the place they need to be going. They have no good excuse not to win the NBA championship. The Knicks are an excellent story, and a probably horrifying opponent, however the Nets ought to be the ones to finish New York’s biblical basketball drought.
Kyrie Irving simply turned solely the ninth participant ever to end a season by taking pictures no less than 50 p.c from the ground, 40 p.c from 3-point vary, and 90 p.c from the line. He was in the center of that Globetrotters play, too, when Blake Griffin made a one-handed seize of a unfastened ball close to the Cleveland foul line, and in a single movement threw a no-look, behind-the again lob cross to his level guard. Irving made the catch past midcourt, and handed with out dribbling to Mike James, who threw the ball off the glass and into the palms of a flying Kevin Durant, who thundered the ball house.
“Next Level,” screamed the incomparable Ian Eagle on the YES broadcast.
Exactly the place the Nets are actually heading.
Irving is 29. Harden is 31. Durant is 32. They nonetheless have some gasoline left of their primes, and although Philadelphia and Milwaukee will symbolize formidable challenges, neither franchise has any championship muscle reminiscence.
No superpower wants to be toppled on this aspect of the draw. LeBron James is gone from the East, and his defending champion Lakers have the look of a hangover staff, leaving the West in the palms of the Utahs, Phoenixes, and Denvers — sturdy groups all, however beatable in a best-of-seven with Durant, Harden, and Irving.
The Nets’ Big 3 are not totally wholesome, however about as wholesome as they’ll probably ever be. Sean Marks, the govt who put collectively this staff, referred to as Durant, Harden, and Irving “three juggernauts.” Those juggernauts are all eligible for contract extensions after the season, on prime of the two years remaining on their current offers.
“Whether or not we re-sign these guys are discussions for later on this summer,” Marks advised The Post. “It hasn’t been broached yet. We all have this single-minded, steadfast approach to the task at hand here.”
The process of successful all of it.
“We would not have gone about building this team without knowing these are the ramifications coming down the road here,” Marks mentioned. “I think [owner] Joe Tsai is well aware of the window that we have here in Brooklyn, and we will continue to build and be systematic in our approach and how we go about adding to the group. That’s the part of the journey that’s so exciting to me.”
But proper now, the journey is all about the subsequent two months. In Irving, the Nets have an otherworldly level guard who has confirmed he could make the large Game 7 shot to win a title. In Harden, the Nets have one among the extra devastating perimeter scorers of his technology, or any technology. In Durant, the Nets have a two-time champ who ought to go down as the second best small ahead of all time, behind LeBron James and forward of Larry Bird.
Those three have performed in a mixed 328 postseason video games, a quantity that ought to trump their inexperience as a unit, particularly in the frantic last possessions of an elimination sport.
“I think we have the collective IQ that’s been there and done it before at some level,” Marks mentioned. “I trust that they’ll make the right decision, whether that’s with their shot or the right read or the right pass.”
Same goes for rookie coach Steve Nash, the Hall of Famer who performed in 120 postseason video games. Nash by no means received a title as some extent guard, however then once more, his groups didn’t have the perfect gamers. Close, however not fairly.
Now Nash’s staff has the best assortment of stars in the league, leaving his Nets with no insurmountable obstacles. … And no reputable excuses.