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Monday, November 28, 2022

Mike Lupica: If Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Nets can’t win now, then when?

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Let’s get straight to something with the net: this isn’t about one of them. It is about both of them. They all really. The whole Brooklyn Nets thing.

It’s definitely Kevin Durant and Dr. Kyrie starts with Irving. Package deal, as always. They came together here with great hopes, for big change, and immediately became favorites after the American Basketball Association led the Nets to win their first title. The two have been great in Brooklyn at times, even when they’ve been on the court together. For now he remains the most famous 1-2 punch in basketball history to have won nothing.

And maybe never.

There are reasons, everyone knows this. Durant was still recovering from his Achilles injury when he signed. Irving, the man of science, was injured in the playoffs last season and then Durant’s sneakers were on his toes when he could beat the Bucks in Game 7. So the conference semi-final was as far away as possible. He should have done a little better this time.

Because you start getting the idea that if they don’t win this year, they will never win. Durant is getting old and Irving never lasts anywhere long, whether he’s in the penalty box for being a Lunkhead anti-vaxxer or not. So for the last time, from the cheap seats of Barclay Center (there are some, right?), if not now, then to the nets of KD and Kyrie and Steve Nash and Sean Marks, the band’s real leader, then when? When do they really try to be the team of the city, rather than its other team.

Grab this about the Nets as they prepare for Game 1 against the Celtics in Boston: Even with KD and Irving healthy and Irving to play home games, the Celtics will be the favorites if their most Good Big Man Robert Williams was available to him from the beginning of the series. It’s the Celtics who are as good as any team in the league, including the Suns, as they warmed up in January. And the Nets who have acted like a regular season don’t count.

And let’s understand something else: The Celtics believe that two of their best guys — Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown — have as much of a 1-2 punch as Durant and Irving. And even though the Celtics made it to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat in the NBA’s bubble year, there’s a growing sense around the league that Tatum and the Browns have now officially come into their own, both in their careers as a single. To the point when many great players do the same.

The Celtics also do something the Nets never do, meaning they play defense; They don’t act like it’s beneath them to get stops more than a few times per quarter. They weren’t the favorites to do anything when the season started like the Nets, especially before Harden got tired of playing with Kyrie. They were raising slogans in early January itself. Then they warmed up, and ended up at the top of the Eastern Conference with the No. 2 seed among all those good teams.

And you know that thing that neither Durant nor Irving want to see coming their way when the Nets have the ball? They don’t want to see Marcus Smart, who plays more defense than everyone else in Nash.

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Everything else the Nets have got in their way of being the No. 7 seed is an undercard starting in Boston, where Kyrie went on a title chase after dropping LeBron. If the Nets can’t win this series, if they can’t even make it to the second round with Durant and Irving, the kind of big games they came to New York to play, why would anyone think it’s going to be better for them? . next session?

We’ve talked about it this entire season when we weren’t talking about Irving’s self-indulgent, self-absorbed position on vaccines: First he and Durant were going to be one of those NBA super teams. Then they went and got Harden from Houston, and they were going to be more super. He then turned Harden away, and got Ben Simmons in return, and Vegas still had some kind of favorite to him, even though no one knew when Simmons would play, and didn’t know yet.

For all the attention they deserve, and for all the hype they generate, and even though they sometimes overdo themselves more than they actually do, you know that since Durant and Irving’s Brooklyn Nets How many playoff series has it won?

One.

Last year.

first round.

The team against which they play Game 1 on Sunday.

They do not lead the league in play. The Lakers lead the league a lot in play. There was drama about the status of Irving’s vaccine. There was drama with Harden, which came and went. Now there’s new drama about whether Simmons, who hasn’t been in the actual game for nearly a year, can actually be back on the court. But while there were stories going around that Simmons might parachute into the Celtics series, Durant came on to say:

“No, I’m not expecting [Simmons] to play. this is sausage to me. I’m not going to put any pressure on Ben to come out and hoop. I’m not expecting him to do anything other than heal my body and get back as soon as possible. I am preparing as if we are playing with our team.”

But these are the Nets, an ongoing soap opera, so stay tuned, maybe even until the next round if the Nets can make it this far. As always, you have to wonder whether Durant, who could have gone anywhere except the Warriors—or stayed with the Warriors—wish that he had gone anywhere except Brooklyn. He keeps saying all the right things. But you see him on the court occasionally, when Irving is the one dodging him, and wonder what Durant is really thinking about where he chose to play his prime.

He and Steph Curry figure it out with the Warriors and become champions. It was one of the two greatest pure shooters in the history of the sport, searching it out for the greater good. And Curry, as selfless as he is gifted and a joy to watch, was ready to step up his game just as Earl Monroe was ready to do so when he came to play with Clyde. Also for the greater good, for a team that was as much a joy to watch as any team in NBA history.

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The net isn’t any kind of joy, at least not yet, and probably never will. You do a lot with your sports teams as long as they win. If the Nets don’t do it now, they probably never will.

Isles Legend Boss Gone Too Soon, Buck Was The Best Move Of The Season And Cole’s Record Tells The Story…

In my sports writing life, there has never been a better team to lug around a locker room than the one inhabited by the great Islander teams in the early ’80s.

And I was lucky enough, at the time of the playoffs, a lot around that locker room.

They could talk, and they could laugh, they were smart, and now they’ve lost Mike Bossy, when they lost Clarke Gillies, they’re both gone too soon, and too young.

Here’s the deal on the deal that the Yankees offered Aaron Judge:

It was very fair.

It is not necessary to think ahead.

Sometimes, in the modern world of sports, that doesn’t fair with the player you keep saying you want and need.

A year ago, Steve Cohen couldn’t wait to make a proper offer to Frankie Lindor, a player he wanted and desperately needed for his team.

So he just didn’t pay the man.

He paid more.

You wonder if Cohen turns out to be a free agent so he can’t do it on the road with the judge.

Last weekend’s story with Tiger Woods that he was going to win another green jacket after it was shown at Augusta National, all over the world and on social media, went very quickly as to how cool it was that he made the cut first, and Then it’s over.

The coverage kept changing almost like the cut line.

We’re less than a month to “Bosch: Legacy” on Amazon, and the continuation of a great franchise in recent television history.

And one of the great performances by Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch.

I think Dave Roberts was right to exclude Clayton Kershaw, not that you asked.

You’ve heard a lot about culture changers in sports, and the expression gets overused.

very.

But Buck Showalter really is one.

And you can see it already, plain as day.

Say it again: The most important free agent takeover of last baseball off-season was Buck.

My friend Barry Stanton says he wishes Doug Flutie was still playing for the New Jersey Generals.

Same.

From the time he began checking pitchers for the sticky stuff last June, here are Gerrit Cole’s numbers:

His record is 8-5, his earned run average is 4.26 in 18 starts.

He got sick there, and then came back stronger, before finally fading away.

But as someone, I forget who once said:

You are what your record says you are.

One more thing about the Yankees, and the fourth game of their series against the Jays, and the way Michael King got the first save of his career when Aroldis Chapman took the whole world on top of 9th:

You can never go wrong with a guy from Boston College.

It’s a thing.

Google it.

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