The Brooklyn Nets have a losing record through the first five games of the season and a lot of that is down to Kyrie Irving not being available.
Irving will not practice or play with the team until he complies with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate and Brooklyn is having to adapt.
In the team’s latest encounter, the Nets went down to the Miami Heat 106-93 on Wednesday night.
Nets star Kevin Durant, who finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds, admitted the team has been struggling without Kyrie’s additional shotmaking quality.
“Yeah, we do miss Kyrie. We do,” Durant said.
“He’s a part of our team, but for the most part we’ve been generating great shots, we’ve been getting into the paint. It’s just a matter of us knocking them down. I think it will come.
“I like how we’re playing defense the last couple games. If we continue to generate good shots we’ll put ourselves in good position.”
For now, Brooklyn is “not assuming” Irving will “change course” on his stance, according to NBA journalist Adrian Wojnarowski.
Speaking about the Nets’ $317m-valued big three on his podcast, Wojnarowski said the trade for the mercurial James Harden, which completed the big three, made Irving “expendable”.
“When the Nets made [the Harden] trade, they saw James Harden as a necessity,” he said.
“I think that they could already see that they may not be able to count on Kyrie Irving. The entire point of this was Kevin Durant came with them. They had to have James Harden to help ensure Kevin Durant’s future.
“They got him to sign the extension and I think the day James Harden arrived in Brooklyn, Kyrie was expendable if he chose to be expendable. He is choosing to be expendable right now.”
Another aspect that has held Brooklyn back in the early part of the new season has been a slow start from Harden himself. He is averaging just 16.6 points, 8.0 assists and 7.0 rebounds per game, shooting just 35.9 per cent from the field and 33.3 per cent from beyond the arc. Those are well down on his numbers from last season, where he put up 24.6 points a game and his career average of 25.1 points per game.
Harden has shared his own frustrations with his start to the season and admitted he is still recovering from the hamstring injury that bothered him during the end of the 2021/21 regular season and playoffs.
Harden said: “As much as I want to get back to [scoring] 30 and 40 points, I can’t do that. As much as I want to, as much as I would love to, I didn’t have any opportunities to play pickup. It was all rehab.
“In my career I’ve been blessed to not have any surgeries or whatnot, so that whole process last year was just frustrating and draining.
“I love to hoop, if it wasn’t for the money I’d still be hooping. So it was frustrating last year and draining for me to know that I couldn’t be myself and be out there on the floor and be the player that I am, but I’m slowly getting back to it. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. You gotta keep fighting for it and I will.”
Next up on Friday night, the Nets (2-3) host the Indiana Pacers (1-4) at Barclays Center.