The Nets collapsed against the Hornets on Wednesday, dropping Brooklyn to 13-11 on the season and 9-4 since Kyrie Irving went out with a shoulder injury. Irving could be back any day now, which will shift Spencer Dinwiddie inevitably into more of a supporting role, unless Kyrie radically changes who he is as a player, which seems entirely unlikely given that this is a player who requested a trade to get out from LeBron James’s shadow after winning a championship with him.
As others have pointed out, this is the third straight season in which Irving’s team has shown it does not miss Kyrie that much when he’s out. Since 2017-18 (Kyrie’s first year with the Celtics), his teams are 82-56 (.594) when he plays and 35-15 (.700) when he’s out.
What good is this information, though, if there’s not a practicable way to put it to use? The Nets cannot trade Kyrie without destroying their franchise. Irving was a package deal with Kevin Durant, who won’t play a game in a Brooklyn uniform until next season. At that point, the Nets will have two guaranteed seasons with Durant before he can opt out. Trading Kyrie this season would run the enormous risk of alienating Durant, and there’s no telling how that would affect his comeback or future. Durant could very well demand a trade the next day, and he wouldn’t take much blowback from the broader NBA community. Sean Marks would be seen as a villain. It’s franchise suicide to do anything with Kyrie given his relationship with Durant.
So what’s the use of the knowledge that something in Kyrie’s performance is being lost in translation? Perhaps it’s this: the Nets should be ultra cautious with Irving and manage his load vigorously. During this time, Dinwiddie performs extremely well, and perhaps LeVert will too once he comes back. This grows Dinwiddie’s value, and once Durant and Irving are on the court together, you either have a third star to augment the attack or you flip him (and/or LeVert) for the necessary piece (a shutdown wing defender, perhaps) to play for a title.
A Kyrie-led team with Durant is perhaps both not very good and not very useful. This was always going to be a weird season for Brooklyn, waiting on KD. Make it even weirder: minimize Kyrie’s role until KD is back, make the playoffs led by Dinwiddie, and figure out what to do early next season with a full complement of players on the court.
Rockets 116, Cavaliers 110
Celtics 117, Pacers 122
Lakers 96, Magic 87
Clippers 112, Raptors 92
Hornets 113, Nets 108
Hawks 102, Bulls 136
Jazz 127, Wolves 116
Grizzlies 115, Suns 108
Pelicans 112, Bucks 127
Thunder 93, Kings 94
Knicks 124, Warriors 122 (OT)
All times ET. Games on League Pass unless otherwise noted.
Sixers at Celtics, 8 p.m., TNT
Cavaliers at Spurs, 8:30 p.m.
Mavericks at Pistons, 9 p.m.
Blazers at Nuggets, 10:30 p.m., TNT
Nothing but love in Kawhi Leonard’s return to the Raptors. Been a rough week for Toronto, though. And L.A. stomped them by 20. Did I curse the Raps? We’ll see. We’ll see.
Mike Prada on why the Bucks don’t miss Malcolm Brogdon ... yet.
Ricky O’Donnell on Matisse Thybulle, the cult hero Philly deserves.
Interesting thought from Zito Madu on Ja Morant’s load management and how a soccer-style NBA schedule could help the cause. Speaking of Ja, what a freaking dagger dunk against the Suns. This angle: SHEESH!
Matt Ellentuck investigates what’s wrong with the Jazz.
Ramona Shelburne is really good at tick-tocks of disasters. Here’s her take with Adrian Wojnarowski on the Knicks nightmare.
Jarrett Culver’s brother scored 100 in a college game and the box score is absolutely wild.
Dan Devine hands out some first-quarter awards.
The great Darius Soriano on Anthony Davis’s early case for Defensive Player of the Year.
Another pretty crazy win for the No. 7 seed Kings. Richaun Holmes is probably the team’s MVP at this point.
Be excellent to each other.