The match ended, and fans at Barclays Center were chanting “Best Player.” Fans wore NBA jerseys in all team colors, and their star raised his arms to acknowledge their praise.
But Kyrie Irving was already heading to the locker room. So was Kevin Durant, too. Ben Simmons wasn’t even in the building. This was not a celebration of Networks, who play their games on their land here. was for Boston Celticsto their star Jason Tatum and to a team that just accomplished an unimaginable feat: Sweep the net four games In the first round of qualifying. The Celtics’ super Nets, which were built around Irving and Durant to win a championship in June, didn’t arrive until May.
It was a bleak scene to end A season started with great expectations in October. The Nets had three of the best players on the planet, a cast of characters that was the NBA version of “Ocean’s Eleven”. Team managers across the league fear them. In fact, in NBA.com pre-season poll72% of the league’s general managers expected the Nets to win the title. The Los Angeles Lakers He finished second, with 17 percent of the vote, proving that no one knows much about anything: The Lakers never made the playoffs.
However, when the season began, there was a big question: What could prevent these two teams from meeting in the NBA Finals? who else but LeBron James Could Durant prevent the Nets from handing their first NBA title? And who, besides Durant, could hinder James’ path to a fifth championship?
It turns out that many will get in their way.
Both the Nets and the Lakers failed – astonishingly – to create successful giant teams, even though the failures had different roots. For networks, it was a mixture of absurdity: a star not being vaccinated against coronavirus; Another star who wanted out after making his way into the net in the first place; A substitute star did not even appear in the elimination match.
for the Lakers, It was pure Hollywood: an ex-star who wanted the ball for himself when his coach wanted him to share it; A crew of humans hope for a last hurrah; The A-list star is trying to carry the team, but is unable to do so the way he has done so many times before. Young opponents derided them, openly, and rejoiced in hastening their demise.
The networks had their critics, too.
“I know a lot of people want to see us fail at this juncture, pick us up as competitors, and I have a lot to say at this point,” Irving said after Monday’s season-ending loss. For summer.”
In Brooklyn, there were problems from the start. Irving refused to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Because of New York City ordinances that required most individuals to be at least partially vaccinated to enter facilities like sports arenas, curlers gave Irving an ultimatum: Get the shot, or stay home. Irving Choose to stay at home. The season started without him.
By mid-December, the Nets relented when they let Irving join them as a part-time employee at most road games. They said they needed him because of the coronavirus itself: Seven of their players have been disqualified from a game against the Orlando Magic because they went into the NBA’s Covid-19 health and safety protocols, leaving the team short. -handed. Nets also lost Joe Harris, one of the best shooters out there, to an ankle injury.
Just weeks into the season, the Super Nets started to appear without a splice. The young teams were unfazed by them. James Harden was barely squabbling in one of his worst seasons in the NBA. But he was still taking his share of shots – at Irving. At one point, Harden told reporters he was going to vaccinate Irving himself, revealing a glimpse of his frustration. As Harden’s discontent grew, Networks pulled the plug, Sent to the Philadelphia 76ers in February for a bundle that included Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and Draft picks.
It was a quick end to the Super Nets experiment, showing how hard it is to build a list of store-bought stars: you can’t put them together and expect them to succeed, no matter how amazing their individual talents may be.
However, amid the Nets’ trade wreck mid-season, a new super team emerged – one that was supposed to include the Simmons, a three-time All-Star named #1 overall in 2016. The problem was that Simmons arrived with a checkered back and a breathless. Described mental health problems. He couldn’t train, let alone play on the field.
The blows kept coming. Durant missed 21 games due to a sprained knee. The Nets lost a succession of losses, pushing them down the Eastern District rankings. The team tried to support his backcourt by signing Goran Dragic, but then he tested positive for the virus. New York City eventually lifted vaccination laws, which means Irving can play home games. But that left the Nets with little time to build up chemistry in the playoffs.
Until then, they had to scramble for a spot in the postseason.
“I hope we have more continuity as a group, but it’s just the league – every team goes through that,” Durant said this week, adding, “There are a lot of things going on throughout the season that need to progress well. In order to be a team. Well, a lot of things didn’t go our way.”
For the Nets, having to go through the playing cycle to get into the playoffs was a small disaster. What happened to the Lakers was worse.
The entire team was vaccinated before the season to avoid disruptions to the Nets, but other hurdles arose. Injuries to James and Anthony Davis, an eight-time All-Star, made continuity difficult. The coronavirus outbreak in December has constantly changed the list available. Worst of all, the pitch combinations didn’t work.
Much of that had to do with Russell Westbrook, whom the Lakers traded last summer, expecting him to be a third star alongside James and Davis.
Westbrook, 33, was the most effective of the Lakers of the three stars available, but he was also the least effective.
By the middle of the season, it was clear that Westbrook wouldn’t deliver the level of superstar play that helped him win the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player award with Oklahoma City. (There was no cheer for this year’s Player of the Year.) Opponents began to mock his choice of shooting and lobbies. He was uncomfortable with an infraction you did not go through. The Lakers had hoped Westbrook would help stabilize the team when James wasn’t on the field, but that didn’t work out.
Westbrook later accused coach Frank Vogel of having a personal problem with him, claiming he had never before had an issue with any coach or teammate.
“You guys don’t know this, but it was the anniversary of Frank and his wife and I actually sent him a bottle of champagne to his hotel room, which you don’t know about, because it’s such a nice job, a nice gesture,” Westbrook said during a press conference after the Lakers season ended. He added: I’m not sure what his problem is with me.”
Vogel was fired after the season, and Westbrook, James, and Davis played only 21 games together. Their union was not fruitful on court, and this left the Lakers with limited options to improve the rest of their roster.
On January 9, the Lakers faced the Memphis Grizzlies in an eight-game winning streak led by 22-year-old star Ja Morant. Among the highlights of Morant that night were a dip and a two-handed block. James began barking at Morant’s teammate, 23-year-old Desmond Bunny, who later told reporters that he told James that no one feared his steps anymore. Their teammate Zayer Williams played on the same high school team as James’ son, LeBron James Jr., better known as Bronny.
With losses piling up and nothing being changed, the tension escalated.
When James praised other team executives in February, some questioned whether the compliments were meant to compare to Rob Pelinka, Lakers vice president and general manager. James too The athlete said He never closed the door back to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The following week, James’ agent and business partner, Rich Paul, met with Pelinka and Jenny Boss, the team’s owner, to assure them that James wanted to be Laker for the long-term.
The series has always been appreciated by star players, often winning tournaments. Magic Johnson became Bass’s friend for life, after her father bought the team in 1979. Kobe Bryant spent his entire career with the Lakers, winning five championships – three with Shaquille O’Neal and two with Pau Gasol. The team prioritized giving a striking farewell in its final season over developing the team’s young players.
Other times it cost them their affinity for the stars.
During the 2012-13 season, the Lakers added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, hoping they could chase another championship with Bryant. Injuries and mismatched personalities caused this team to collapse from within. He ended up losing in the first round of the playoff and Bryant rupturing his Achilles a week before the playoffs, which hastened the end of his career.
The Lakers missed the playoffs for the next six years. They only recovered when James and Davis reunited and won the 2020 Championship.
A first-round exit in 2021 led to a trade with Washington for Westbrook. The Lakers believed this move would help them win their 18th championship of the franchise. you did not.
The Nets had their own title ambitions this season, and were still hoping for a merger in the playoffs. But the Celtics were waiting for them in the first round, with an arsenal of local stars. They have drafted almost all of them, including Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as their best players, and Marcus Smart, NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Of course, the Celtics weren’t averse to acquiring famous players in the past: they traded for Irving in 2017. But after two disappointing and drama-filled seasons in Boston, he withdrew to Brooklyn.
And Irving was there on Monday, vowing that Brooklyn was where he wanted to be: “I’m here with KEV,” he said, and they will “run this franchise together” with the team’s front office.
They originally combined to win championships, and so far have not qualified. But the dreams behind the super teams are undefeated – remember the Lakers and Nets have tried before – even if the giant teams themselves sometimes fall short.
Irving added, “My greatness has been recognized, but at this point I really want to be part of a great team.”