Under normal circumstances, the Brooklyn Nets’ early exit from the NBA Playoffs would have been labeled as an enormous letdown — and there are probably plenty of basketball fans out there that are doing so.
But for head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks, this year was anything but that as injuries ravaged Brooklyn’s foundation.
While each of their “Big 3” spent a considerable time on the shelf during the regular season, the Nets were without Kyrie Irving for the latter games of their second-round matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks while James Harden was dealing with a nagging hamstring issue that he reaggravated 43 seconds into Game 1 of the same series.
It left Kevin Durant practically on his own to put up some big-time performances, but it wasn’t enough as the Bucks advanced to the Eastern Conference Final against the Atlanta Hawks.
“I don’t look at it as failure,” Marks said (h/t Brian Lewis, New York Post). “I think the term ‘failure’ can be used in a completely different array of circumstances far more serious than what we went through. Is it disappointment? Yes. Without a doubt. We’re going to own it, we’re going to grow from it.”
“It’s tough; really tough,” Nash added. “We were so close to advancing. It didn’t go our way this time. But we’ll take some of this with us, and it’ll make us stronger and we’ll approach that next season with this in our toolbox and it’ll grow our character and resolve.”
That character and resolve are often tested for even the best-looking teams on paper as the playoffs to the point where the old cliche of a team learning from its losses on big stages only allows them to come back stronger.
“That’s got to be our approach, we were very close,” Nash said. “[We faced] a lot of adversity, and if we can refine and improve what we do, why can’t we take this with us, grow, learn and be back with even more resolve, more of an understanding of what it takes to win?
“That’s definitely the silver lining is what we can take from this, what we can add to our toolbox and to our collective mentality and culture. … Everyone here is fired up to get back to work and build this thing back up, and even stronger.”
A healthy roster will undoubtedly be one of the favorites to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2022 — but that will also increase the size of the target on the Nets’ back.
“Life moves on,” Marks said. “Nobody’s feeling sorry for the Nets, and we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves. That’s pro sports.”