After 15 days away from the Nets in COVID-19 protocols, James Harden is back and better than ever. On Christmas Day, Harden lit up the Lakers with a 36 point, 10 rebound and 10 assist triple-double outing including a picturesque lob to Nic Claxton to give the Nets a late lead they never relinquished. Two days later, Harden dismantled the Clippers with a season-high in both points (39) and assists (15) to go along with eight rebounds to propel Brooklyn to a 16-point victory. A well-rested Harden, who came off an asymptomatic positive virus test, used the time off to get into tip top shape and shed the extra weight that was limiting his explosiveness to the basket. After using the entire off-season to rehab his Grade 2 hamstring strain suffered in the 2021 NBA playoffs, Harden barely played and trained prior to 2021 training camp opening. Harden struggled to catch a rhythm and the league's leader in free throw line trips was not getting to the charity stripe with regularity. Basketball fans and pundits speculated that the diminished version of Harden was a result of age and NBA rule changes that aimed not to reward offensive players using crafty techniques to create contract and draw fouls. Through 30 games, Harden was sluggish, carrying extra weight and still developing chemistry with teammates while working back to peak conditioning and shooting form. Prior to the COVID-19 positive test, Harden was showing signs of turning the corner, and the time off did wonders for him. With Harden ascending back to an MVP level, the rest of the NBA will be put on notice. Kevin Durant is expected back with the team on Thursday against Philadelphia and Kyrie Irving is one to two weeks away from returning, according to head coach Steve Nash. Things are heating up in Brooklyn as the Nets big-three will be whole again before the All-Star break and ready to wreak havoc on the league.
Deron Williams may have missed his calling. The Brooklyn Nets former franchise point guard took his talents to the boxing ring as an undercard in a heavyweight exhibition match with Frank Gore prior to Saturday night's main fight between Jake Paul and Tyron Woodley. The Williams and Gore fight was scheduled for four rounds with Williams getting a split decision from the judges. The fight was surprisingly chippy when Williams clinched Gore and knocked him into the ropes and out of the ring tumbling into the camera equipment. Gore appeared shaken up, but upon resuming action he got Williams in the clinch and nearly wrestled him out of the ring. After the fight Williams insisted his boxing debut is a one and done scenario, but he did call out ex-Jet receiver Brandon Marshall who challenged the toughness of NBA players as opposed to NFL players. Williams never panned out with Brooklyn despite being named an NBA All-Star in 2012. The Nets floor general drew major criticism after signing a near $100 million contract upon the team's move to Brooklyn and never living up to the hype. In fact, due to a stretch provision the Nets still paid Williams $5 million annually five years after he was released and up until June 2020 as part of the stretch provision. Williams was a terrific player in his heyday, but whether it be the pressure of playing in New York, or some of the aging supporting cast around him in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Williams left Nets fans wishing for more
Nothing has changed since September when the Brooklyn Nets organization, including Joe Tsai, Steve Nash and Sean Marks, came together to rule out Kyrie Irving as a part-time, unvaccinated player. Irving is still unvaccinated, the New York City vaccine mandate hasn't changed and we are still very much living in a pandemic world. What has changed is the growing number of Nets landing on the virus protocols list and positive tests across the country and league. This development has prompted Marks to make quick decisions to fill roster holes by signing Langston Galloway, James Ennis and Shaquille Harrison to ten day contracts to fill the void. James Harden and Kevin Durant remain in virus protocols, while there's a high level of concern about the minutes Durant is logging in the early season. The timing of Irving's return couldn't be stranger as cases are increasing with the omnicon variant spreading throughout the United States. In fact, Irving has landed on the virus list and will need to produce negative tests two consecutive days to be eligible to play in addition to a ramp up period to make sure he's in game shape. The reality is, the decision to flip flop on Irving's eligibility is based on desperation and not logic. Brooklyn simply isn't a true title contender without Irving in the fold and now with him back, they become the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn's brass knows a championship is at stake and changing course shows exactly how dire things are in Brooklyn.
While you were sleeping a whole lot has changed around the Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Durant has a tweaked ankle, James Harden is among seven players in COVID-19 protocol and Kyrie Irving tweeted out a video that hints at a return to the court. Despite dressing eligible players, Brooklyn escaped in overtime by Toronto 131-129 on Tuesday night. Durant led the way with 34 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists while Patty Mills added 30 points. It was arguably the most impressive win of the year for the Nets against a Raptors squad that was winners of four of its last five heading into the contest and with plenty of offensive and defensive firepower. Brooklyn survived one night with rookies Cam Thomas (4), David Duke Jr. (10) and Kessler Edwards (17) contributing in the scoring column and playing meaningful minutes. The attention now turns to how Steve Nash will handle a paper thin roster and when Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge and Bruce Brown will be eligible to return to action. In the immediacy, Nash has his hands full, but a potentially season altering development came when Irving posted yet another cryptic tweet, this time a video of him lacing up sneakers. Speculation has been mounting that Irving could return to the Nets with reports indicating there's increased optimism among Nets players and coaches that may be in the offing. Brooklyn has its hands full right now, but at least there is one encouraging sign coming out of Nets world.
The Brooklyn Nets have announced that Kevin Durant has officially been added to tonight's injury report and is questionable to play against Toronto. Coming off a 51 point game against Detroit, it's not clear exactly when Durant suffered the injury, but it's significant enough to potentially impact his playing status. Along with Durant, Joe Harris remains out following ankle surgery, but five players have landed on the league's COVID list including DeAndre Bembry, LaMarcus Aldridge, James Johnson, Jevon Carter and Paul Millsap.

Brooklyn will be extremely shorthanded and is now dealing with a potential COVID-19 outbreak. The Chicago Bulls already had their next two games postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak, so if things continue in this direction the Nets could be going down a similar path.
Take Kevin Durant off the Nets or Steph Curry off the Warriors and both clubs would be fighting for their playoff lives. 

 With both players in the fold, Golden State is the best out West and Brooklyn the beast of the East, record-wise. Durant and Curry are truly irreplaceable and it's not a coincidence they're in the middle of a MVP race that is tightening with each passing day. 

 Durant made his latest case for MVP with a 51 point outing in Detroit without James Harden, Paul Millsap, Joe Harris and oh yeah, Kyrie Irving. The Nets franchise player is leading the NBA in scoring at 29.4, 2.4 points higher than Curry and The Greek Freak. Durant is shooting a remarkable 52.9 percent from the field to lead the league and is 9.7 percentage points higher than Curry. 

 The numbers don't lie and Brooklyn's point forward passes the eye test, Durant is more than deserving of the MVP award. His unprecedented efficiency, clutch shooting and effortless scoring is the stuff of legends, not to mention Steve Nash has to literally force him to the bench to rest.

 At the quarter pole, Curry is just a hair ahead of Durant, due in large part to his team's overwhelming success and ascension back atop the Western Conference. 

Things can change in a hurry and with news breaking that optimism is growing around Irving's return to the court in Brooklyn, the Nets are hoping to stack wins and make an even stronger case for Durant during this superb season.

 According to Shams Charania of the Athletic, there is renewed optimism about Kyrie Irving returning to the Nets this season.

Charania indicates there's been increased dialogue between Kevin Durant and Irving about his fit on the team and analyzing Nets' game.

It's unclear the exact scenario around Irving's potential return. There's been no clear indication that vaccine mandates for pubic venues in New York City will be lifted anytime soon. 

Back in September, the Nets' brass of Joe Tsai, Sean Marks and Steve Nash refused to allow Kyrie to be a part-time player and practice with the team, while playing only in road games where the vaccine mandate doesn't apply.

The recent report could mean one of three things, either the Nets are softening their stance regarding Irving being a part-time player, Irving has agreed to get the vaccine or there has been a change to New York City's vaccine mandate.

Whatever the case may be, the report is a major development for the Nets' title chances this upcoming season. Brooklyn has the best record in the Eastern Conference, but has failed every litmus test against the NBA's elite teams. As this story is updated, further details will emerge, but this has to be an encouraging sign as virtually nothing has been reported about Irving's status changing since the start of the year.

 


Fans can be fickle and forgetful. Kyrie Irving is absorbing heat for his refusal to get vaccinated and comply with local mandates. The Nets don't want Irving as a part-time player and thus the standoff has reached its fifth month.

Fans and media clamoring for the Nets point guard to make the decision they want and what's best for their team, not the individual. 

At the end of the day, Irving has a personal choice, but he'll have to live with the consequences of his decision.

No NBA basketball unless there's a change to New York City vaccine requirements or he opts for some form of the vaccine.

Most fans and the public at large are outraged at Irving's decision amidst a health crisis with the pandemic simply much bigger than the game of basketball.

Most quickly forget that it was Irving who was the key driving force for bringing Kevin Durant to Brooklyn with him back in 2019 and forming a superstar duo that James Harden couldn't resist joining upon wiggling out of Houston.

The Brooklyn Nets as you see them today, are a culmination of Irving assuming the role as lead recruiter for his childhood team. 

So not matter how upset, annoyed or disenfranchised you are with the Nets franchise point guard, remember, there's no KD or Harden without Kyrie.


 


Who are the 2021-2022 Brooklyn Nets? Ask Steve Nash, Kevin Durant and James Harden and they'll all answer in a similar manner.

They're still trying to figure things out. Brooklyn's roster was built around three superstars and with Kyrie Irving still unvaccinated, he remains away from the team indefinitely.

Sean Marks has done a remarkable job of compiling assets to build the star-studded roster that you see in Brooklyn, but outside of Patty Mills, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bruce Brown and flashes of James Johnson, the Nets don't have any reliable players outside of Harden and Durant.

Last season, Brooklyn's big three played only 8 regular season games together, but its bench and role players held down the fort with stars shuffled in and out for a multitude of reasons.

That has been far from the case this year as Brooklyn has stood virtually no chance to win without Durant in the lineup and a diminished Harden who still doesn't look like himself.

Marks has received plenty of praise over the years for successfully building a championship contender, but the Nets don't pass the eye test despite being No. 1 in the East and look far more like pretenders.

The Nets' GM will need to navigate Irving's tricky vaccination situation sooner than later to determine whether he'll be part of the team's plans this year or a piece to bring in reinforcements for Durant and Harden.

NBA stats create their legacy based on what they do in the biggest games and in clutch moments and in the two months leading up to the trade deadline, Marks can either add to his legend or so things go South quickly depending on how the roster is handled from here on out.

 


Down by 17 points in the third quarter, Steve Nash and the Nets could have easily packed it in and called off the dogs in the front end of a back to back Texas road trip. Instead, Brooklyn rallied to stun Luka Doncic and ex-Net player and coach Jason Kidd.

Behind a behind 24-13 fourth quarter and James Harden and Kevin Durant coming alive offensively late, Brooklyn finally secured a signature win against a quality opponent. 

Harden finished with 23 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds, while Durant dumped in 24 and seven rebounds including clutch basket after clutch basket in the final minutes.

One of the momentum changing sequences came with 3:24 remaining in the third quarter when Nic Claxton was called for a kick ball violation while guarding Doncic. After the whistle, Claxton went chest to chest with the Slovenian Sensation and jawed at him before Doncic shoved him away to draw a technical foul. From that point on, the Nets went on to outscore Dallas 34-22.

A visibly frustrated Doncic tried to answer the Nets furious rally, but the left for dead Brooklyn offense got a much needed spark from Claxton's dust up.

The Nets have been searching for their identity throughout the first quarter of the regular season and with Harden looking like a shell of himself and the team failing to pass the litmus test against tougher opponents, Tuesday's win answered some of these questions, at least for the night.

Brooklyn takes on Houston on Wednesday looking to improve on their 17-7 record and pad it's lead for first place in the Eastern Conference.


 




Kyrie Irving wants his ultimate decision to take or not to take the vaccine to be up to him and him alone. The Nets point guard doesn't want to be influenced by any outside sources including the team, media or angry fans with pitchforks pressuring him to comply with NYC's local mandates and return to the club.

That being said, Irving is putting the Nets and their fans in a very difficult position by staying in a holding pattern and keeping hope alive, even just slightly, that he'd be back with the team this year.

Honestly, Irving and the Nets may have been better off if he determined during training camp that he was not going to get vaccinated at any point. This would have allowed Sean Marks plenty of lead time to plant seeds with other teams and find the most beneficial move to allow the Nets to get somewhere near full value in return for the mercurial star.

In fact, Irving's vacillating has made him a side story, which is exactly what he didn't want to be. Steve Nash and company have taken the right mindset by keeping a seat on the bandwagon open, while not stopping the season tour and refusing to constantly look in the rearview for Irving to appear.

Whatever issue Irving has with receiving the vaccine, he's made it clear it's personal to him and he'd like to handle it as such. While fans on each side of this argument will battle over the merits of Irving's decision, the reality is nothing has changed since July regarding his status.

While a recent report from Bally Sports indicated Irving may be waiting for and open to a plant-based vaccine, it's hard to get inside the thinking of a man who doesn't always seem to know what he wants himself.

The only thing left to do for the Nets is take back control of the situation and not impose any type of ultimatum, but a deadline to make a decision. If Irving hasn't been vaccinated by New Year's Day, Marks and crew should let it be known to Irving only that they will not only field offers for him, but proactively make calls.

Is this in a way forcing Irving's hand? Absolutely. However, it's in no way coercing him into a decision he doesn't want to make. Brooklyn simply shouldn't be held hostage anymore, especially in a season with championship aspirations and a few missing pieces on the roster it will need to desperately fill to make those dreams a reality.




 NFL legendary coach Bill Parcells has a treasure chest of famous quotes to his credit, but one of his all-time best sayings doesn't apply to the 2021-2022 Brooklyn Nets.

Despite Brooklyn holding claim to the best record at 16-7 in the Eastern Conference and tied for third in the entire league, the Nets have failed every litmus test so far this year.

"You are what your record says you are," Bill Parcells once notoriously proclaimed.

 Unfortunately, it doesn't necessarily ring true for this Brooklyn club.



With an opening night loss to Milwaukee, coming up short against Charlotte, Miami, Golden State, Phoenix and Chicago twice, Brooklyn is feasting on bottom dwelling teams and coming up way short against the league's premier squads. 

Kevin Durant is shouldering the scoring load and James Harden is a reluctant scorer, while looking as though he's still not fully healthy after a hamstring rehab period that commanded his attention all summer. 

Harden looks a combination of gunshy, hobbled and not playing with the same fire and intensity as last season when carried the Nets to the No. 2 seed in the East with Durant and Kyrie Irving missing large chunks of the regular season.

The silver lining is Harden hasn't played near his capabilities and reinforcements with be on the way once Joe Harris returns healthy and Nic Claxton gets his conditioning right after his mystery illness. 

Brooklyn weathered an early season storm with Irving missing all 24 games so far by refusing to comply with local vaccine mandates, Durant dodging a potential serious shoulder injury and Harris hoping to return to the club at some point before the All-Star break following ankle surgery.

The Nets quality wins just aren't there this year, so while the record has Brooklyn sitting pretty atop of East's standings, there are more question marks, including Irving's future with the team, than answers for the first place club.







Sean Marks and the Nets understand at this point, Kyrie Irving won't be walking through the doors at Barclays Center.

With cases rising throughout the country and particularly higher in the New York Metropolitan area, it's unlikely that City officials or newly elected Mayor Eric Adams are eager to lift the vaccine mandate anytime soon.


Joseph Tsai, Steve Nash and Marks made an organization-wide decision not to allow Irving to be a part-time player with the team. It's also unlikely Brooklyn's brain trust backtracks any from that conclusion.

The most likely scenario is for Irving to play elsewhere this year and for the Nets to not only field offers, but to proactively reach out for the best deals in exchange for the superstar point guard.

One option for Marks is sending a combination of Irving and picks or young assets to Houston for shooting guard Eric Gordon, who played with Harden and would immediately take the scoring onus off him.

Gordon is not a superstar the caliber of Irving, but he'd be a good fit for the scoring needy Nets and allow Harden to facilitate to the supporting cast.

Irving and the Nets are at a standstill, but now is the time for the team to start looking for options to replace him as the third scoring option with the countdown starting until February's trade deadline.

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