The Ben Simmons saga mercifully ended on NBA trade deadline day when the unhappy point guard rid himself (or the other way around) of the Philadelphia 76ers in favor of the Brooklyn Nets. Right?
That was 37 days ago. Now it looks like we just traded the Ben-Philly saga in for a Ben-Brooklyn one, much to the presumed disappointment of Kevin Durant.
KD was stuck playing with an unmotivated James Harden and a part-time Kyrie Irving. Surely ridding his franchise of The Beard’s bad juju in favor of a versatile defensive piece that was a better fit alongside the Nets’ big two was an upgrade, though, regardless. Right?
Perhaps not, because Simmons has yet to suit up for Brooklyn. Kyrie is still only playing in road games (except when his team di lui plays the New York Knicks.)
Durant is still running (mostly) solo in a group that was supposed to have two other superstars. And the longer he’s forced to carry the hopes of an entire franchise on his back di lui, the more danger both he and the Nets are in.
Street Nick Friedell of ESPN, Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash said Simmons isn’t doing anything on the court at the moment. Nada. Nothing. Diddly squat.
“Simmons isn’t able to do anything right now,” Friedell reported on Twitter. So there you go.
Nash and the Nets understandably assumed it might take their new 6-foot-11 weapon time to get back into basketball shape after more than nine months away from an NBA team.
What they didn’t assume, though, was that Simmons would immediately develop back problems. Or that he would have a setback in recovering from said back problems.
“Simmons did a couple individual workouts in the beginning and hasn’t been able to do anything since,” Friedell continued.
“Nash says he doesn’t remember if Simmons was showing back issues or not during initial workouts.”
It’s taken barely a month for the Nets to become slightly perturbed with Ben. For his part of him, KD has been nothing but supportive of his new teammate.
But add those frustrations onto Irving’s status as a part-time NBA employee, and all of Brooklyn’s championship-or-bust expectations have fallen on Durant.
On the floor, KD is capable of carrying a team. The issue becomes how long will he stay on the floor if he has to do all the work?
The Brooklyn Nets are forcing Kevin Durant to carry a dangerous load
Harden’s disappearing act, Kyrie’s decision not to get vaccinated, and Durant missing 27 games of his own with injuries have the Nets stuck in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Unless they can somehow make up 3.5 games on the Cleveland Cavaliers with 11 games to go, the Nets will have to begin the postseason in the East’s play-in tournament.
Durant has looked like Durant when he’s been on the floor. The 12-time All-Star returned from missing a month and a half and walked on the court cold to average 30.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 7.3 assists across the last eight games as he keeps his team’s playoff hopes alive.
But with Simmons’ return timeline and New York City’s vaccine mandate status both unknown, KD is all the Nets have.
And at some point (like now), it’s time to worry about the burden the two-time NBA Champion is carrying.
- Durant missed 21 games with an MCL injury this year and has averaged 37 minutes per night immediately upon returning
- He’s only played 44 of 71 games this season
- He missed the entire 2019-20 regular season and part of ’20 -21 after tearing his Achilles
- (He tore that Achilles under pressure to carry a team – in his final season with the Golden State Warriors, he missed a month with a right calf strain but came back during the NBA Finals after Klay Thompson got injured, and subsequently tore that right Achilles )
- He only played 27 games in 2014-15 with the Oklahoma City Thunder because of three separate injuries to his right foot, which included surgery
- He’s 33 years old and in his 15th season
- He’s ninth among active NBA players in minutes played
- He’s played more than 6,000 playoff minutes across 151 games
The longer Simmons remains out and Irving can’t play at home, the more the Nets depend on Durant. And the more the Nets rely on Durant, the higher his chances of injury and the franchise’s title hopes going up in flames.
Durant can’t lead the Nets to a championship without help
For all the reasons listed above, both Brooklyn and Durant need help. Seth Curry is the team’s third-leading scorer behind Irving. He’s averaging 16.8 points per game.
Then it drops to 36-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge and 33-year-old Patty Mills.
It’s not that KD can’t carry Brooklyn on a deep run. He almost eliminated the eventual-champion Milwaukee Bucks just about by himself during last year’s playoffs.
It’s that he shouldn’t.
Durant has been on fire – the good kind – since he returned to action on March 3.
But if Simmons can’t be on the floor and Kyrie can’t be counted on every night, KD and the Nets are playing with fire. And not the good kind.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.
RELATED: Kyrie Irving’s Historic Night Elicits ‘Most Skilled Ever’ Take From Evan Fournier