By Lenn Robbins
We won’t know until the zenith of the summer who will hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. If it’s the Nets, who have never won an NBA Championship, the mega trade of mega trades they shanked on Wednesday will be celebrated for years to come, years in which Brooklyn probably finds itself at or near the bottom of the standings.
The Nets traded everything except the naming rights to the Brooklyn Bridge to the Rockets for James Harden, one of the league’s premier scorers and postseason busts. Harden now teams with Kevin Durant and the missing Kyrie Irving to form, at least on paper, one of the most dysfunctional and impressive troikas in NBA history.
It’s mindboggling that the Nets didn’t ask the Rockets to throw in a couple of basketballs because it’s hard to fathom how these three offensive wunderkinds can play with one ball, which is the question rookie coach Steve Nash must answer – after he claws out from the rubble of expectation that is now the Nets.
It’s NBA title or purgatory for the Nets who clearly don’t learn from history. They made almost a more egregious trade – almost – in the summer of 2013 when they surrendered their future the first time, giving the Celtics first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016, 2018 the right to swap first-round picks in 2017.
“Today, the basketball gods smiled on the Nets,” then team owner Mikhail Prokhorov said in a statement.
Maybe for that one day. The gods relocated. The Nets made the playoffs in 2013 and 2014, but never even played for a title. For the rest of the decade Barclays became the Howes Cavern of Brooklyn.
Now the gods are doubled over in laughter. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me, the gods might be saying as they book flights for Houston.
The Nets surrendered their future, giving up first-round picks in 2022, 2024, 2026 and gave the Rockets the option to swap first-round picks in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027 according to published reports.
They also jettisoned any semblance of depth, trading away Caris LeVert, Dante Exum and Rodions Kurucs to the Rockets and sending Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince to the Cavs in what became a four-team deal according to reports. And Spencer Dinwiddie is lost for the season with an ACL injury.
One would think this trade would thrill a player such as Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot who could become the first NBA player in history to average 25 minutes and zero shots. Honest.
Uniting two, if not three superstars to win a title has been the formula of choice for several franchises of late. It worked for Miami and Golden State, but those franchises didn’t forfeit their future for multiple titles.
What’s mind boggling about this flight of fancy is this:
What if the Nets don’t win it all this next year or next. It’s a stretch to think Durant, Harden, and Irving, each of whom is on his third NBA team, can co-exist for more than month no less a season or two. What happens then?
Then the Nets become the cicadas of the NBA, a team that disappears for as much as 17 years only to reemerge, make a lot of noise for a while but don’t accomplish much other than to lay eggs and do it all over again.
Speaking of disappearing, where’s Waldo Irving. He reportedly left the team for personal reasons, initially believed to be a one-man protest over the takeover of the Capitol. Next came reports that Irving was spotted at a family birthday celebration sans mask. When does he return and how long then does it take the three stars to align?
But hey, the Nets do have a couple of $5.7 million exemptions to bolster the roster. And they also got a 2022 second-round pick as part of the deal. Yep, the basketball gods are laughing their godly rear ends off – God knows.