Batman has Backup in Brooklyn

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Updated: December 18, 2021
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If the last 10 games were all that we had seen of this year, The Slim Reaper, Kevin Durant, would be the 2021-22 MVP of the season. As Curry has been distracted by the 3-point record and has slumped in his efficiency as of late, KD has arguably played the best basketball of his career. The questions more about Durant and the Nets have not been centered around his greatness, but if the totality of his minutes logged will catch up with him on the backend of the season and most importantly when it matters most in the playoffs. Brooklyn has been decimated by injuries and health protocols and has been playing names that even some of the most diligent viewers of the league don’t recognize.

It is why the news that hit yesterday could be The X factor of the East and possibly of the entire NBA in one Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets are reconsidering their previous agreements about him as a part-time employee. New York is one of the strictest locations currently on health protocols and due to Irving’s vaccination status, he is unable to play home games in Brooklyn. The front office and coaching staff decided at the beginning of the season that Kyrie coming in and out of the lineup would be too much of a distraction on the team and decided to not have him suit up at all until further notice.

Well…it appears to be until further notice. As they have had possibly more varieties of starting and closing lineups than any other team in basketball and are still at the top of the East in the standings, Durant seems to be able to win with anyone around at this point. But since he is regularly playing over 38 minutes a game on a repaired Achilles, even the most optimistic doctors would undoubtedly have some concerns. But the luxury of signing the tandem of Durant + Irving back in the 2019 offseason was that they have a proper tier 1 Robin to their slight-framed 7-foot Batman.

Kyrie Irving will now be joining the Nets on the road in all games he is eligible to play in. Presumably, it will not only allow Durant to shave minutes per game off his current load but give them the ability to rest him on the road against the Detroit’s and Orlando’s of the world. Considering Curry today has decided to sit out on the tail-end of a back-to-back in Toronto, it is setting the precedent that this MVP season will not be dictated by who logs the closest to 82 games especially with the health protocol variable in the mix.

With regards to on-court impact, some will argue this may make the Nets the best team in basketball. Most of us had not expected Kyrie’s return, and also didn’t expect KD to be this dominant in the absence of any true help. If Irving has kept himself in game shape and is ready to contribute at a high level, he will be a huge upgrade on the floor especially considering some of the scorers they have been putting on the floor as of late. However, there is a question mark that has yet to come up in discussions and it is how the need to share the ball with another scorer and late-game closer may affect the psychological space of one Kevin Durant and the current zone he is in.

Yes, he has had Harden next to him for the majority of the season, yet, Harden has been playing more like a top 40 player rather than a top 10 player. And although Irving’s lack of physical presence on the defensive end usually keeps him out of top 10 discussions, as a 4th quarter bucket getter he is without a doubt a tier 1-star in this department. This season and especially with Harden out of the lineup lately, Durant has not had to defer to anyone and has been allowed to ISO-kill whenever he felt it was necessary. Late in games, Brooklyn has leaned on two things and two things only, KD’s ISO and KD’s ISO kick out to shooters.

Up until this point, the big questions for additions coming to contenders have been centered around Durant’s old franchise in California with the return of Klay Thompson. But unlike Klay who plays 95% of possessions off-ball and often with an extremely low usage rate for his scoring production, Irving needs the rock to be impactful. The popular saying, don’t fix what ain’t broken, may end up being an interesting sentiment when it comes to the upcoming future for the Brooklyn Nets.

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