Nets

Nets’ Complex Season Could Intensify If Play Resumes

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After the March 11th announcement that the NBA was suspending the season, things have not been the same. COVID-19, or more commonly known as Coronavirus, has the 2019-2020 season on pause. The last game the Nets played may have been their most impressive performance of the season– a 104-102 road win against the Lakers.

 

The possibility that the game in Los Angeles could have been the final game of the regular season is truly depressing. What an impressive win and more importantly what a clutch game-winning shot by California native Spencer Dinwiddie. This game was the start of a four-game California trip with the other three games against the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings.

Season Recap

The 2019-2020 season can be best defined as a roller coaster. Last summer’s free agency will go down as one of the best in franchise history. One thing is certain– the signings of both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving has the fan base excited for next season. The early-season expectations were for Kyrie to lead the team to the playoffs and establish chemistry in the locker room. While dropping 52 points in his Nets debut on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves was electric, it was in a losing effort. That seemed to be the common theme for the point guard in his first campaign in Brooklyn. The team’s win-loss record with and without Irving raised an eye for potential concern. The Nets posted a record of 8-12 (.400) with Irving in the lineup and 22-22 (.500) without.

While the season has not lived up to expectations, the play of Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert have not gone unnoticed. Both players are making their respected cases to remain on the roster for a potential championship run next season. The Nets were in the news when the franchise unexpectedly announced that the team and head coach Kenny Atkinson were mutually parting ways. The dismissal of Atkinson marked the end of the rebuild era. The team currently holds the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference with a record of 30-34. The team is likely looking at back-to-back playoff berths and will be in pursuit of a new head coach to lead the franchise next season.

Spencer Dinwiddie

One player whose role on the team increased throughout the season was Spencer Dinwiddie. When the season tipped off, the expectations were for him to come off the bench as the sixth man. With an unexpected shoulder injury to Irving, expectations changed. The six-year pro has elevated his game to the next level, averaging 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per contest. Both are career highs. During one stretch this season, the team was playing their best stretch of basketball when Dinwiddie led the Nets to a 13-7 record over a 20-game span. It was during those slate of games that had the point guard in serious conversation to make the All-Star team as a reserve.

Caris LeVert

The Brooklyn Nets have remained highly optimistic with the potential of Caris LeVert. Entering his fourth full season in the NBA, the team expected the forward to take the next step. After an early-season injury to his right thumb, it was looking like another injury-riddled campaign. Fast forward to his most recent stretch of games before the season’s suspension and LeVert is tearing it up. Averaging a career-high 17.7 points per game and shooting 38.1 percent from the 3-point line, the sky remains the limit for the 25-year-old.

One main vocal point in the successful pairing of Durant and Irving was their prior relationship and praise of LeVert. Both have high expectations for the Michigan product and view him as the third piece in forming a successful trio in Brooklyn. A key element has to be his versatility to guard positions one through three and orchestrating the offense as a point guard.

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Dismissal of Kenny Atkinson

The Brooklyn Nets shocked nearly everyone when the organization and coach decided to mutually part ways on March 7th. Coming off an impressive 139-120 win over the San Antonio Spurs the night before, the decision raised eyebrows across the league. Atkinson was at the helm over the last four seasons which saw the team rebuilding for the future. With an overall record of 118-190 and last season’s 42-40 record, the franchise was trending upward.

Once the news was made official the rumors began to swirl as to why the sudden firing of Atkinson. Throughout his tenure in Brooklyn, the team had never been filled with All-Star caliber players prior to this season. The franchise may have had the impression that Atkinson was best suited for a rebuild and that once it was time to win, the locker room needed a new voice. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, there was a growing belief that both Durant and Irving did not want to play for Atkinson next season.

If the season were to continue.. what’s next?

The season was suspended ten days ago and a return to the floor remains unknown. The outbreak of this pandemic has the sports world in an extended absence and the fans wondering when things will return to normalcy. The hiatus was originally expected to last a minimum of 30 days, but with the outbreak getting worse each day, a return is not imminent. With a potential mid-June return viewed as optimistic, the league continues to consider their options moving forward.

With a June return looking like the most ideal situation, the league might be better off concluding the regular season and going straight to the postseason. The Nets could easily be the team that benefits the most from this extended time away from gameplay. They currently hold the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference and would play the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. Should the season resume at this point, the team could be welcoming back their two prized off-season acquisitions to the lineup. That’s right, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving could make the team the scariest seventh seed in the postseason.

While that situation is murky, the fan base can dream of that being a potential reality. Kevin Durant’s camp has stated that a summer return still remains unlikely. On the other hand, Kyrie would be in his third full month of rehab from shoulder surgery in a potential mid-June return. Although the Nets never announced a timetable for the point guard’s return to the court, this lengthy delay would only benefit Irving moving forward.

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About Rob Siwiec

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