The sun rose as it always had on Thursday morning, hours after the Nets traded one of the biggest names in basketball in Kevin Durant, but the day was the start of a new chapter in the franchise’s history. And one that has many questions that need to be answered.
Durant’s departure officially ended the Big 3 era in Brooklyn, which was far from the fairytale ending that general manager Sean Marks had envisioned when he took the team down this path in 2019. Now, all that the Nets have left is Ben Simmons, who was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers last year and hasn’t lived up to the billing so far in his tenure with Brooklyn.
The prevailing question since Kyrie Irving was traded on Sunday, and started the dominos falling, has been how did it all go so wrong. When Durant and Irving moved to Kings County the Nets finally looked like they’d be the team to beat and when they made the move to add James Harden in 2021, a title seemed like it was right around the corner.
Instead, the trio played just 16 games together due to injuries and other circumstances that kept players off the floor. Irving drama dominated the headlines, Harde had enough after spending just over a year in Brooklyn and Durant tired too of all the instability.
Now the Nets are back to square one.
They are a rebuilding team in need of direction and their championship window not only closed but slammed shut as the sun rose over Barclays Center. Brooklyn already has started to cobble together assets for the future by adding first-round picks in the Durant and Irving trades and the Nets are in better shape still than when Marks first came aboard to try and right the ship.
If you’re looking for positives, then you’d quickly point to the young talent that is there in Cam Thomas, who has three straight 40-plus games, and Nic Claxton, who has developed into a defensive player of the year candidate.
Mikal Bridges, who is one of the players coming back to Brooklyn in the deal, is also a solid 3-and-D wing that could help create the foundation for a solid defense.
The Nets general manager could still have some moves up his sleeves before the 3 p.m. trade deadline strikes. Brooklyn has a number of veteran players that could still be moved for more assets to help in their rebuild, including some of the pieces they recently acquired in trades with the Dallas Mavericks and Suns.
However, even with the Nets not having to completely start from scratch, Brooklyn’s put itself in a position to have to once again put off its championship aspirations.
Right now it’s hard to say how long things will take before the Nets are back in the position they were even just a week ago or how the group — which could still change before the deadline — will finish out the year.
And one of the biggest questions of all will be how the fans will take this latest blow. The Nets host the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night, where we should start to get some answers.