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Nets need to play long game and hold KD out until after All-Star Break



Kevin Durant is everything to the Brooklyn Nets. The gifted 7-footer is the heartbeat of the team and his health and well being should be a top priority.

The Nets are notoriously tight-lipped discussing injuries with the media and need to remain ultra conservative with the timeline for his return to the court whether an MRI confirms a knee sprain or even a better prognosis.

Sans Kyrie Irving until this past week, Durant's minutes were getting out of control this season and even Steve Nash admitted that his workload needed to be curtailed and urged his star to take more rest days.

With over three weeks until the All-Star break and a road heavy schedule where Irving will be eligible to play alongside Harden, Durant's next game should not come until February 24 against the Celtics.

As Nash knows better than anyone, Durant is a gamer and wants to play every minute of every game. Brooklyn is learning it needs to protect Durant from himself and this instance is a perfect example.

Irving and Harden can hold down the fort in his absence and the Nets can play the long game and hold Durant out as an extra precaution.

Brooklyn holds collective breath as KD to undergo MRI on injured knee


The Brooklyn Nets played arguably their best home game of the season, a place they're a middling 11-11, but the biggest storyline to emerge from Saturday's win over New Orleans is that Kevin Durant exited in the second quarter in what the team classified as a knee sprain.

After Bruce Brown crashed into Durant's knee, causing it to hyperextend, the Nets' power forward tried to shake off the injury before signaling to the bench and walking off the court with play still going on.

Durant is scheduled for an MRI, and while it appears as though he's avoided a major injury, watching the franchise leave the game in that fashion and undergo further testing, is concern enough for Nets' fans.

Brooklyn travels to Cleveland on MLK day, with Kyrie Irving and James Harden expected in the starting lineup, but the biggest star of the Big 3 will not play and now the question remains how much time with Durant miss?

The All-Star break is a little more than three weeks away, so it's  plausible, the Nets could hold Durant out until after the break.

Nets must inquire about this player ahead of NBA Trade Deadline

The Houston Rockets have overcome a disastrous start to the season but are still heading nowhere fast. Stephen Silas' group jumped out of the gate with a 1-16 start and currently sit at an improved mark of 12-31 yet are not even within an earshot of a playoff spot. 

The Rockets will be sellers ahead of the February trade deadline and the Nets, despite holding claim to the NBA's most efficient offense in league history last season, are struggling to produce points against elite teams. 

No timetable has been given for Joe Harris' return from ankle surgery and Kyrie Irving's part-time status is helping fill the scoring void, but not entirely. 

Enter Eric Gordon, who is in the final year of a four-year, $75.6 million deal he signed in 2019. At 33, Gordon is still chasing an NBA title. Gordon was James Harden's running mate in Houston for several title pushes that fell short, but he remained loyal to the organization through the rebuild. 

Gordon was less than complimentary regarding Harden's unceremonious exit from the Rockets, but if R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish can patch up a rocky relationship from their time with Duke, now as teammates on the Knicks, so too can Harden and Gordon in Brooklyn. 

The Rockets' shooting guard is averaging 14.8 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range. 

Harris' return to the Nets is still up in the air and its clear Brooklyn is missing a knockdown perimeter shooter to space the floor and creative driving lines for Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant to attack the paint. 

Gordon is also an underrated defender and has playoff battle scars from several deep Western Conference Finals runs with Houston. With still heavy money and two more years left on his current deal, the Rockets are very likely to try and move him and will have a modest asking price to take on that type of contract for an aging sharpshooter. 

For the likes of Brooklyn, Golden State and Phoenix, Gordon makes a ton of sense. The leader in the clubhouse from a fit standpoint remains the Suns as he'd reunite with Chris Paul and flourish in that offensive system, but with ownership turmoil in the Valley of the Sun and organization's refusal to extend big man Deandre Ayton, Gordon might land elsewhere. Depending on interest in Gordon, he could be a buyout candidate as his most productive years are behind him. 

 Nets' GM Sean Marks has been very creative around the trade deadline to improve the team and given the heavy minutes Harden and Durant have amassed, an inconsistent supporting cast and Irving being ineligible for home games, netting a perimeter defender like Gordon with a smooth shooting stroke is something to strongly consider in Brooklyn. 

Nets' Big 3 damn nearly unbeatable when healthy, but that never seems to be the case

The Brooklyn Nets are 13-3 when Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving take the floor together and 59-35 when at least one superstar is sidelined. 

The reality may be sinking in that a combination of age, overusage and injury might prevent fans from seeing the ultimate version of the Big 3 that many anticipated. Whether it's hamstring strains, COVID-19 protocols, compliance with local vaccine mandates, missing time for personal reasons and a multitude of other issues, the Nets are, in fact, hardly ever whole. In the tiny sample size as a complete unit, Brooklyn has shown glimpses of being a dynastic group and deserving of the title as the odds-on favorite to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

 As the Nets found out in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, championships are not won on paper. Steve Nash has been dealt a hand of three Aces, but when he's unable to play his best cards, the Nets' bench and supporting cast has been exposed. Despite the emergence of a trio of talented rookies in Cam Thomas, Kessler Edwards and David Duke, the win-now Brooklyn Nets are now just 1-8 against the top-four seeds in each conference and even after shellacking the East's top club in the Bulls on Wednesday night, two-thirds of the Big 3 was sidelined in a lopsided loss to Oklahoma City on Thursday. Just when Brooklyn appears to be building momentum, camaraderie and chemistry, something pops up that disrupts that progress. The Nets are their own worst enemy. 

When Nash's crew is locked in on both sides of the ball, compliant with local vaccine mandates and perhaps most importantly, healthy, there are only a handful of teams who can hang with the group labeled "Scary Hours". The Nets are halfway through the regular season, Irving has played in merely three games, Durant's minutes are at an all-time high and Harden took nearly 30 games to start resembling the player who carried the Nets for stretches of the 2020-2021 season. The NBA All-Star break is less than a month away and Brooklyn needs to get its ducks in a row if it hopes to ramp things up in time for a championship pursuit. 

Keeping the Big 3 healthy, developing chemistry with the supporting cast, while not overtaxing them with heavy minutes should be on Nash's mind throughout the remainder of the year. As the numbers show, the Nets are one of the most talented Big 3's the league has ever seen, but unless they're whole in more aspects than one, this team may fall short of its tremendous upside.

Harden quips about Irving's eligibility for future Nets' home games

This global pandemic is no joke matter. The COVID-19 Omnicron variant is spreading like wildfire across all corners on the globe. Now with unvaccinated Kyrie Irving back on the court for Nets' road games after the team reversed course on its preseason decision to preclude him from being a part-time player, the attention has turned to the point guard's eligibility to play in home games. James Harden, clearly being facetious with the media, who has harping on this issue, joked he would take matters into his own hands. With a report from the New York Daily News suggesting that New York City's local vaccine mandate has a loophole where the Nets' could allow Irving to play by paying a nominal fine. The first violation amounts to a warning followed by $1,000, $2,000 and $5,000 fines to infinity for all future violations. For billionaire owner Joseph Tsai, the financial penalty is hardly anything at all, but what kind of message does that send to fellow New Yorkers that money can simply buy an unvaccinated individual a Golden Ticket into a vaccinated palace? How far are the Nets willing to go to make a sure a key piece of the championship puzzle is in place? Time will tell, but Brooklyn earned an impressive 138-112 blowout win at the United Center over the top-seeded Chicago in Wednesday with Irving eligible and in the starting lineup.

Kyrie Irving eligible to play in 13 of Nets' next 18 games

Brooklyn plays Portland Monday night with and Kyrie Irving listed in the starting lineup. Irving will be able to play in 13 of the Nets next 18 games as they approach the All-Star break. This stretch will represent one of the most important in the team's championship pursuit as Irving will need to develop a rapport with new teammates and build his stamina after missing the beginning of the season. Brooklyn had lost five straight homes games before squeaking by the Spurs in overtime on Sunday at Barclays. With a NBA-best 14-3 road record, it's expected Irving added to the lineup will only improve that sterling mark. Milwaukee and Miami are both 2.5 games back of Brooklyn and the Nets trail top seeded Chicago, who they play at the United Center on Wednesday night, by 1.5 games. The Nets can either leapfrog Chicago ahead of the All-Star break or sink back into the pack over the next 18 contests. Irving is a difference-maker and glue guy in the locker room despite his icy relationship with the media. It's clear Brooklyn's title hopes hinge on Irving's availability and whether or not he's seamlessly integrated into the lineup and meshes with a new supporting cast. Steve Nash will need to capture the moment over the next 18 games and inspire the Nets to stack as many wins as possible before the All-Star break to ascend atop the Eastern Conference.

Nets taking their foot off the gas in anticipation of Kyrie's return

Losers of three straight games, the Brooklyn Nets are showing signs of a team exhaling and waiting for their third star to return to the court. Call it a midseason slump, but the absence of bench production, outside of a furious fourth quarter rally against Memphis on Monday night, point to the Nets taking their eyes off the ball. Brooklyn has dropped behind Chicago at the top of the East while Milwaukee is closing ground fast. Yes, Kyrie Irving will pay when the Nets take on the Pacers in Indiana on Wednesday, but the team can't simply continue playing lackluster fourth quarter basketball and expect star power to carry it through difficult times. Once Irving ramps up and with roughly just 18 road games he's eligible for playing in the rest of the way, the playoffs will be here before we know it. The Nets have built some bad habits over this three game skid and while their talent is undeniable, Steve Nash will need to correct the team's untimely mistakes and lack of cohesion regardless of whether Irving is in the lineup or not.