Against all odds, Saturday was an enormous Nets night in the massive city. No Kevin Durant and no Kyrie Irving is presupposed to mean no probability when the Nets fall behind by 23 points, home or away.
An Irving trade demand on top of that’s presupposed to mean a Nets blowout loss, followed by one other press conference that devolves right into a theater of the absurd.
But in some way, a way, Cam Thomas scored 44 points in 29 minutes off the bench, and Edmond Sumner scored 29 because the starter in Irving’s spot at the purpose, giving the Nets a wild 125-123 victory over the Wizards at Barclays Center. It didn’t matter that injuries — each real and imagined — had knocked the house team all the way down to eight available bodies.
Irving’s sudden onset of calf soreness couldn’t stop the Nets from solidifying their hold on fourth place within the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, his talent for destroying all basketball dreams in his midst stays undefeated, because the stunning Nets comeback didn’t change the incontrovertible fact that the seventh-place Knicks now account for the more stable Recent York City option for the foreseeable future.
Put aside the dispiriting developments on the Garden on Saturday night. The Clippers won in additional time, 134-128, after the Knicks did not grab a defensive rebound and allowed Nicolas Batum to hit a tying 3-pointer on the regulation buzzer.
Jalen Brunson was his usual terrific self, scoring 41 points and dishing seven assists against one turnover in leading the Knicks’ own dramatic comeback (they were down 17 within the fourth), but RJ Barrett couldn’t put it within the ocean and the Knicks couldn’t cope.
Jalen BrunsonRobert Sabo for NY Post
The excellent news? They’ve got a championship-level quarterback at age 26, and so they’ve got Julius Randle back to playing at an All-Star level. They’ve got a possible star in Barrett at age 22, one other burgeoning talent in Quentin Grimes at age 22, and 11 first-round picks over the subsequent seven years.
The Nets? In Irving, Durant, and the long-since departed James Harden, their scorecard shows nothing but superstar trade demands inside one yr. The Big 3 has turn out to be The Big Flee, and oh by the way in which, Ben Simmons just spent one other game in street clothes.
The Nets can’t possibly proceed on with Irving, in spite of everything the damage he has inflicted on the franchise, and so they can’t possibly get a worthy package of assets for him in a trade. And there’s virtually no probability Durant will stick around long-term if Irving is gone.
So should you were an NBA player right away looking for a latest address, the Garden should look more appealing than Barclays Center. And that’s not how this was expected to play out after the way in which free agency unfolded in 2019.
The Knicks had famously cleared out salary-cap space to sign Durant and Irving, only to observe each take their talents to Brooklyn as a substitute. Feeling exposed once more, the Knicks countered by signing Randle as a consolation prize and by issuing an apology to their customers.
Kyrie IrvingRobert Sabo for the NY POST
“While we understand that some Knicks fans may very well be disenchanted with tonight’s news,” read a press release from team president Steve Mills, “we proceed to be upbeat and assured in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the long run, through the draft, targeted free agents and continuing to construct around our core of young players.”
It gave the impression of a practical joke, and Mills was fired seven months later. Leon Rose, longtime agent, was hired to run basketball operations, and Tom Thibodeau, veteran coach, was hired to place a reliable Knicks product on the ground.
Thibs did just that in Season 1, making the Knicks the feel-good story of the league as they gave the town something to cheer while it pulled through the pandemic. Season 2 was a depressing step back, and now Season 3 has represented a return to relevance, largely because Rose gave Knicks fans something they’ve coveted for the longest time:
A degree guard who knew the best way to play the town game.
Brunson absolutely should’ve been an All-Star, but ultimately no one outside of his inner circle really cares about that. Brunson has been a real treat to observe.
In reality, he has been essentially the most reliable playmaker on the town despite having half of Irving’s physical talent — on a very good day.
But Irving may be trusted only should you are banking on him to smash your season. For starters, given his history of injury and disappearing acts, the guy isn’t available nearly enough to be definitely worth the trouble. Over the past five seasons, Brunson has played in 327 regular-season games, or 117 greater than Irving has played in.
Brunson is a professional’s pro, and someone who could help draw future free agents to the Garden. Is there anyone within the NBA not named LeBron James who actually desires to play with Irving? And is James’ interest merely an indication of his late-career desperation as he tries to win one other title with a supporting Lakers forged that’s weighing him down?
Either way, it continues to be true that the Nets have the higher Recent York record and the higher Recent York roster. But imagine it or not, the Knicks have the higher Recent York future.