In the immortal words of Joe Johnson, “it’s not that bad here.”
After Tuesday’s blowout loss to the Warriors, there were recriminations. Draymond Green got the better of Kevin Durant. James Harden didn’t look like James Harden again, Steph Curry looked like he — and not his former teammate — was the best player on the planet. Barclays Center sounded more like Chase Center 3,000 miles away. Oh yeah, Kyrie Irving was nowhere to be seen. (Researching perhaps?)
Nowhere were the recriminations spoken more loudly than on ESPN’s “First Take” by Stephen A. Smith…
“Kevin Durant, I’m sad for you bro. … You have no help. And more importantly than anything else, you made the wrong decision by going to Brooklyn. … KYRIE IRVING BETRAYED YOU!”@stephenasmith LOST IT pic.twitter.com/gjw5tAZVcO
— First Take (@FirstTake) November 17, 2021
Smith, as one does a fifth of the way through the season, pronounced the Nets’ championship dreams dead. Here’s an excerpt…
“Kevin Durant, I’m sad for you, bro. You all alone. You have no help. And more importantly than anything else, you made the wrong decision by going to Brooklyn.
“And I’m not talking about this as a Knick fan… Kevin Durant made the wrong decision by going to (Brooklyn), and he’s going to rue the day that he did that.
“Let’s analyze why that is, because you’ve got a guy in James Harden – not first year, this is his second year in a row. Mad love for James Harden, you’ve got to get your act together, bro. You ain’t James Harden right now. Averaging 19 points per game, you sitting there struggling from the field. You had 24 points last night, it was the meaningless 24 points that I’ve ever seen from the career of James Harden. You are a superstar, and you are not looking like one.”
Smith also went after Irving, calling him out for being disloyal to KD and the Nets.
“Every respectable team you go up against waxes y’all behind. And why? Because KD don’t have no help. You’re left there all alone. You don’t have a culture. You don’t even have a damn fanbase.”
Well, a lot of digest there! Not all of it wrong. The Nets have beaten only three teams with winning records, including the injury-depleted Cavaliers Wednesday night. And yes, Warriors fans dominated the scene in Brooklyn. Making it worse was that the game was nationally televised (the second highest rated game of the season in fact.)
Steve Nash put it in his own words. Spoken at a lower decibel level than Smith before a smaller audience, the Nets head coach called the Warrior loss “a lesson” and once again pleaded for patience. No, he said, the Nets are not “elite” yet.
“Well, I just don’t think we’re in that category yet,” Nash said. “We got a lot of work to do. We’re trying to improve as a group, get better and hopefully, we can find a way to overcome some of our deficiencies by the end of the year.
“It takes time. We started the year with a continuity plan from last year that got thrown out the window obviously when Kyrie [Irving] didn’t come back, so we’re trying to build and figure it out.”
So, hold on, Stephen A! We are only 16 games into the season, one fifth of the 82-game schedule. Relax. It’s not THAT bad here! After all…
—The Nets and Wizards basically tied for the No. 1 seed in East; Nets at 11-5, Wizards 10-4.
—The Nets have best in-conference record in East (9-4);
—The Nets have most road wins in NBA (6);
—The Nets have best record in East over last 10 games (8-2), Only Suns (10-0) have been better. Warriors are also 8-2.
—The Nets are the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA and second in effective field goal percentage as well as top 10 in multiple defensive categories including second in opponents’ effective field goal percentage
And in a rare home head-to-head with the Knicks Wednesday, the Nets-Cavaliers game outdrew the Knicks-Magic, both in raw attendance, 16,922 to 16,680, and percentage of seats sold, 95.4 percent to 84.2.
No one is being Pollyannaish. Durant and Harden had similar takes to Nash after the blowout on Tuesday.
“It’s all a part of the journey. It’s all a part of understanding what level we need to be at every possession and it’s a great test for us,” said Durant after laying out a litany of things he’d like to have back in the battle with his former teammates.
“We’re just trying to get better every game. The goal is to be the best team at the end of the season and in the postseason. That’s the goal,” Harden said. “But probably not [there]. We’re probably nowhere near. But it’s a long season for us to get better, and we will continue to get better.”
“We have to find our identity. We’re still a brand new team, so we still have to find out what we’re good at, what we’re great at, what we can be great at, and it’s gonna take a long season,” Harden continued.
Sure, there are issues, new ones every day, in fact. Joe Harris is out for what sounds like weeks. Nic Claxton is nowhere near ready after his illness. Blake Griffin needs to get out of his shooting funk and Nash needs to refine his rotations. But as every Nets fan knows, Sean Marks is always ready to make needed moves. After all, 28 players were under contract at one point or another last season.
As one team insider told us Wednesday morning. “I’m not concerned with any noise.” No doubt there will be a lot more. The Nets play in New York, have championship aspirations and any stumble, real or perceived, is going to attract attention. Not to mention Irving becoming the face of the anti-vax movement along with Aaron Rodgers. As fans, we will have to deal with it all. Best to take it one game at a time. That’s how it works.