Even before the 2021/22 NBA season started, most oddsmakers, fans, and analysts said that the Brooklyn Nets were the clear-cut favorites to win the NBA Championship. Fast-forward to today and they no longer have the best NBA championship odds for 2022 and for very, very good reasons.
The Nets’ championship aspirations suffered a massive blow when Kyrie Irving said that he wouldn’t take the vaccine against COVID-19. The state of New York mandates that every athlete over the age of 12 has to be vaccinated to take part in indoor athletic activities, thus making him ineligible to play at Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden.
Brooklyn made a tough call and decided not to allow Kyrie Irving to be a part-time player and only join the team in road games. Kyrie’s decision, which was personal but still controversial, took a toll on the team’s plans, chemistry, and rotations.
That has been in full display during the first week of the season or so. While Kevin Durant continues to shine and prove that he’s one of the greatest players of all time, the Nets have lacked a secondary playmaker next to James Harden and another scoring threat on the perimeter.
Harden has struggled to get to the line as the league enforced some rule changes that don’t favor his game. His scoring totals have plummeted and that has also been reflected in Brooklyn’s record thus far.
Needless to say, the Nets’ early struggles and Kyrie’s refusal to take the vaccine have forced several experts to backpedal on their predictions. Then again, let’s not ignore the fact that the Nets are stacked with talent.
Kyrie Irving already missed plenty of time last year, either due to injury or for personal reasons, and the Nets still found ways to get the job done. Moreover, even without him and with a limited James Harden, they were inches away from knocking down the team that would eventually go on to win the NBA Championship.
Obviously, not having a top-15 player such as Kyrie Irving will hurt any team. His historically great handles, his scoring ability, and his offensive repertoire would make any team better, even one with two of the greatest scorers in the history of the Association.
Then again, it’s still way too early in the season to sound off the alarms in Brooklyn. LaMarcus Aldridge needs to get back into shape, James Harden needs to make the adjustment to get to the line again, and it’s only a matter of time before Joe Harris finds his groove back and his shot starts falling again.
The Eastern Conference is wide open and the Nets may not be a bit of a favorite as they were a couple of months ago, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have more than enough talent to figure things out and get back on track rather sooner than later.
I know that I would never want to put my money against Kevin Durant and James Harden, and maybe neither should you.