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Brooklyn Nets acknowledge toll of off-court points as season ends with first-round sweep by Boston Celtics

NEW YORK — Within the wake of their season-ending sweep by the Boston Celtics, the Brooklyn Nets formally acknowledged on Monday night time what was obvious all through their season: All the problems they handled off the ground had a huge impact on how they performed on it.

“I feel it was simply actually heavy emotionally this season,” Nets guard Kyrie Irving stated after their 116-112 Sport four loss. “All of us felt it. I felt like I used to be letting the staff down at a degree the place I wasn’t capable of play. We had been attempting to train each choice for me to play, however I by no means wished it to only be about me. And I feel it grew to become a distraction at occasions. And as you see we simply had some drastic adjustments.”

Irving’s acknowledgement was noteworthy on condition that his resolution to not get vaccinated towards COVID-19 hung over every part the Nets did all season. They began the season below a cloud of uncertainty due to a New York Metropolis vaccination mandate that required all staff be vaccinated as a way to return to the office. The Nets declined to permit Irving to take part as a part-time participant earlier than reversing course in December after a team-wide COVID-19 outbreak. Irving returned to the ground on Jan. 5 however was capable of play solely in highway video games earlier than New York Metropolis Mayor Eric Adams pulled again the mandate for athletes and performers in late March.

Except for Irving’s in-and-out standing, the Nets handled an ankle damage to protect Joe Harris that compelled him to overlook all however 14 video games this season; an MCL damage to star ahead Kevin Durant that compelled him to overlook six weeks; and a commerce on the deadline in February that despatched James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers in trade for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks. The commerce was a transfer Harden later acknowledged was made partially due to Irving’s part-time standing — and a deal that introduced Simmons, who requested a commerce out of Philadelphia final summer season, to a Nets staff that he would by no means play for after a herniated disk derailed the final two months of his season.

“I feel that is a giant motive why we had been in that place, a scarcity of continuity,” coach Steve Nash stated of the distractions off the ground. “Kevin having to hold such a heavy burden to maintain us within the playoff image. All these issues off the ground play a job in what occurs on the ground as nicely. They’re tied, and there is not any query that it has an influence. Over the course of the season, there have been simply too many, too many issues that held us again for moments and pockets.”

The Nets endured an 11-game dropping streak with out Durant, and a stretch via February during which they misplaced 17 of 20 video games. Simply when it appeared they had been prepared to show a nook, one other occasion would alter the course of their season. The Nets, picked by many earlier than the season to win the NBA championship, completed with a 44-38 document, good for seventh place within the Japanese Convention — and a playoff berth solidified by a play-in recreation win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 12. By way of all of it, the Nets had been by no means capable of finding the rhythm each nice staff wants as a way to obtain playoff success.

“No regrets,” Durant stated after getting swept for the primary time in his profession. “S— occurs. No crying over spilled milk. It is about how we will progress and get higher from right here. We see we have been via lots this 12 months. All people within the group is aware of what we went via. So no time to really feel remorse or be too pissed off. It is about how we will discover options to get higher, proactive as a company to get higher.

“Even the good groups, they do not dwell on what they do, they simply attempt to proceed to maintain getting higher. So for us, we all know what our errors had been, simply attempt to flip them into strengths. However we won’t don’t have any regrets on what we did. S— simply performed out the way in which it performed.”

Whereas the Nets had been annoyed with the season, and the way the sequence towards the Celtics performed out, there was virtually a way of aid that issues lastly ended on Monday night time. All of the strain the Nets handled on and off the ground proved to be an excessive amount of to beat for a gaggle that by no means hit the excessive ceiling many thought was attainable.

“We misplaced a franchise participant [in Harden] and we received a franchise participant again [in Simmons],” Irving stated. “However we did not get an opportunity to see him on the ground. There was no strain for [Simmons] to step on the ground with us both. Ben’s good. Now we have Ben, we now have his again. He will be good for subsequent 12 months. However now we simply flip the web page and look ahead to what we’re constructing as a franchise and actually get more durable. …

“That is why I stated it is some added motivation while you get swept like this. Did not essentially play in addition to I’d have preferred, however now we simply search for the long run as a staff and what we will accomplish for the following few years, and I get enthusiastic about that.”

A lot of that future now facilities round Simmons, who was not at Barclays Heart on Monday night time as he continues coping with again points, in response to the Nets. For his half, Irving stated, “I do not actually plan on going wherever,” when requested about figuring out a attainable long-term extension this summer season. He has a participant choice this summer season price over $36.5 million.

“There is no query about the place I am going and the way that is going to occur,” Irving stated. “I am right here with [Durant], but in addition I am right here to construct an excellent staff. I’ve averaged this many factors, finished this many issues. Individually, been acknowledged for my greatness, however at this level in my profession, I actually simply wish to be a part of an excellent staff. And simply dominate that means and not likely concentrate on any particular person accolades and achievements. Simply actually construct one thing particular — that is my focus going into the summer season is simply constructing with my teammates.”

Durant additionally made it clear that he want to see Nash return as coach of the Nets subsequent season.

“Steve’s been dealt a loopy hand the final two years,” Durant stated. “He is needed to take care of a lot stuff as a head coach, first-time coach — trades, accidents, COVID, it is simply a whole lot of stuff he needed to take care of. I am pleased with how he centered and his ardour for us. All of us proceed to maintain creating over the summer season and see what occurs.”

Because the Nets embark on what may very well be an attention-grabbing summer season, each Irving and Durant made it clear that they imagine brighter days are forward for the group.

“Once I say I am right here with Kev, I feel that actually entails us managing this franchise collectively,” Irving stated. “Alongside [owner] Joe [Tsai] and [general manager] Sean [Marks], simply our group of relations in our locker room, in our group. So it isn’t nearly me and Kev, I do not wish to make it nearly that, we’re cornerstones however we now have just a few different guys on contract. I feel we have simply received to make some strikes this offseason, actually discuss it, and actually be intentional about what we’re constructing and have some enjoyable with it, make it pleasing.

“And hopefully we get to begin from day one simply as a squad and as a household and we simply actually fear about us. Typically I really feel just like the noise on the exterior world, the skin noise, can seep in. I am not the kind of individual to permit that to occur, in order we construct collectively as a squad, I simply suppose we should be more durable mentally and simply extra sincere about what we wish to accomplish. And simply persist with the aim, persist with the mission.”


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