The Brooklyn Nets have a star-powered roster, but they’re only a measly 7th in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Break. New additions like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant haven’t made the splash everyone expected this season, but that’s all down to injuries. But when the Nets are firing on all cylinders, they’re impressive! They just snapped the Toronto Raptors’ 15-game winning streak without Irving. And hey, supposedly he’ll be back soon! So are things looking up for the Nets? With two-thirds of the regular season over, is it too late to figure out a consistent starting lineup? Here’s a look at what’s happening with the Brooklyn Nets this season.
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Injuries All Over the Place
Bad news first? It doesn’t look like KD is coming back at all, not even for the playoffs. But that was to be expected. The All-Star and former Golden State Warriors player suffered a ruptured Achilles in the NBA Finals last year, and head coach Kenny Atkinson confirmed in January that they don’t expect Durant back this season or postseason. Though since he’s been seen working out on the court, the rumors are swirling…
Meanwhile, Irving’s latest injury has kept him out since February 1st, when he sprained his knee in a game against the Washington Wizards, but he’s only been on the court and healthy in 20 games this season. In addition, Joe Harris has suffered from back soreness, DeAndre Jordan dislocated his finger, and Garret Temple had a knee contusion. Caris LeVert has stepped up in Irving’s absence, though he himself has dealt with a thumb injury this season that kept him out for 25 games. He’s a versatile scoring threat, averaging 15 points per game and shooting 50% from behind the three-point line (that stat won’t last, but still).
Out of necessity, Atkinson has played around with the Nets’ rotation a lot to see what works as his key players continue to get injured. One of the most effective rotations included LeVert, Irving, and Spencer Dinwiddie at guard, along with Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris. According to Atkinson, “I wouldn’t be surprised if you see more small lineups. It’s just the trend now.” With Irving’s return on the horizon, we’re another step closer to seeing this high-powered, offensive lineup in action.
Even if Irving doesn’t return right after the All-Star break, it’s important to note that the Nets have been hot lately. They’ve won four of their last five games without him. And through everything, Dinwiddie has been consistent all season; he leads the team in average points per game (21) and assists (6.6).
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What’s next for the Nets?
Only time will tell what’ll happen when everybody is healthy again.
They may adopt the small lineup mentioned above and send Joe Harris to power forward. Atkinson says they may just try some things out, “We have opportunities to play small, really small, too. That’s within our possibilities. We’ll just figure it out. It’s hard to know until you have it in your hands what exactly you’re going to do.”
Overall, despite all the injuries and uncertainties, the Nets are trending upward. Even in the face of their current losing record (25-28), Irving has said the goal is still to make the playoffs. He remarked, “So heading into All-Star break, you want to have these great games, these great tests, see what we can learn from them and move forward. And after All-Star break, we get everybody back and I feel like we’ll be in a better place.”
The situation has certainly turned around for the Nets. In January, things looked as grim as ever; they only won 5 out of 15 games the whole month. Now they look like a winning team, and Irving says, ideally, they’ll try to eke out a sixth seed. Of course, we could speculate about all the things that could’ve gone differently for the Nets had they been healthy, but we’ll leave that to the real theory crafters. Now we just have to wait and see how the Nets perform after the All-Star Break!
In their final 29 games, the Nets will have to play 16 on the road, making three separate road trips of four games each. Right after the All-Star break, they’ll take on the Philadelphia Sixers on the 20th, followed by the Charlotte Hornets on the 22nd, and the Orlando Magic on the 24th.