What’s next for Nets after being ousted from NBA playoffs by Celtics?


Nets GM Sean Marks/head coach Steve Nash, Barclays Center background

The Nets entered the 2021-2022 season with the goal of playing in June. Their season ended on Monday, with a 116-112 loss to the Boston Celtics in the first-round of the playoffs.

The organization now enters a pivotal offseason with just one playoff series win since signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the 2019 offseason.

Here’s a look at some of the decisions Nets owners Joe Tsai and GM Sean Marks face over the next few months:

BRING BACK STEVE NASH?

The Nets were built to contend for a title. When a team falls so far short of its goal, there are going to be questions about the coach’s job security. That’s the nature of pro sports. It’s natural to look at the Nets’ 4-0 loss to Boston and concludes that Nash is in trouble.

But it seems like Nash is safe. Durant would play a significant role in any decision involving the head coach. And he’s endorsed Nash several times over the course of the season, including after the Game 4 loss.

“I mean, come on now. Yeah,” Durant said. “Steve’s been dealt a crazy hand the last two years. He’s had to deal with so much stuff as a head coach, a first-time coach: trades, injuries, COVID. It’s just a lot of stuff he’s had to deal with and I ‘m proud of how he’s focused and his passion for us. We all continue to keep developing over the summer and see what happens.”

It’s worth noting that Nash hasn’t sounded like a coach worried about his job over the past few days. He’s talked regularly about offseason plans and the bigger picture for Brooklyn. If he was concerned about the possibility of getting fired ahead of Game 4 on Monday, he didn’t let on during the team shootaround or after the game.

“I loved doing this and love these guys, love my staff, love all the departments. Really have a great working environment, really enjoyed it and want to continue doing it,” Nash said.Ben Simmons and Joe Harris will give us a big lift and we’ll see how the rest of the roster rounds out, but we should be excited by that. Getting two of your top four guys back — two guys with size, one who’s an All-Star and one who’s one of the best shooters in the league — that gives us a big boost.”

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash coaches against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the third quarter at Barclays Center.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash coaches against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the third quarter at Barclays Center.

In addition to Durant’s public endorsement, it’s worth noting that Nash was hand-picked by Marks in the 2020 offseason.

That alone should give Nash more security than a coach who was inherited by the GM or was in place when Durant arrived.

Also, Nash was supposed to coach a team with a healthy Durant, Irving and James Harden when the season started. Per a team decision, Irving was away from the Nets due to his COVID vaccine status and local vaccine mandates. The team then permitted him to play road games. When the local vaccine mandate was lifted, Irving was back playing home and road games. Harden, obviously, forced a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers midway through the season. Durant missed 21 games due to a sprained MCL.

Simmons, the best player acquired in the Harden trade, has yet to suit up for the team. And Harris missed the bulk of the season due to an ankle injury.

You’d expect that these factors figure heavily in how the Nets evaluate Nash.

WHAT TO DO WITH KYRIE IRVING?

Irving has a player option on his contract for next season. He can opt out and become a free agent this summer. Before his vaccine status became an issue in the 2021 offseason, Marks said that he expected to sign Irving to an extension. Once Irving’s availability was up in the air, the Nets were open to the idea of ​​trading the guard.

After a stretch of injuries and COVID-related absences led to them welcoming Irving back, it’s fair to assume they will re-sign the New Jersey product. Durant will obviously want him back.

Apr 25, 2022;  Brooklyn, New York, USA;  Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) and forward Kevin Durant (7) drop back on defense during the second quarter of game four of the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs against the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center.  Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 25, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) and forward Kevin Durant (7) drop back on defense during the second quarter of game four of the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs against the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

And Irving wants to be back.

“I don’t really plan on going anywhere,” Irving said after scoring 20 points on 13 shots in the Nets’ loss to Boston. “Like I said, this added motivation for our franchise to be at the top of the league for the next few years. And I’m just looking forward to the summer, and just building with our guys here.”

Over the course of Irving’s tenure, members of the organization have had concerns over his commitment and overall availability. But the Nets aren’t in position to replace Irving. So it’s fair to assume he will be back in Brooklyn on a multi-year deal.

WHAT’S UP WITH BEN SIMMONS?

The Nets and Simmons, according to ESPN, will continue to work on getting the three-time All-Star back on the court. Getting him back on the court will be crucial for the Nets’ 2023 NBA title hopes.

And it’s also crucial to how you view the Harden trade. Brooklyn recuped two first-round picks from Philadelphia in the deal. But if they don’t move forward with Simmons, the club can’t expect to get much back in a trade that sends Simmons to another team.

So the Harden trade would be leave the organization handicapped even further moving forward.

Apr 10, 2022;  Brooklyn, New York, USA;  Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons (10) takes warmups prior to the game against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center.

Apr 10, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons (10) takes warmups prior to the game against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center.

“There was no pressure for him to step on the floor with us,” Irving said. “Ben’s good, we have Ben, we have his back, he’s going to be good for next year. Now we just turn the page and look forward to what we’re building as a franchise and really get tougher.”

HOW WILL THEY OPERATE IN FREE AGENCY AND TRADE MARKETS?

The Nets have the two Philadelphia picks from the Simmons trade and valuable players like sharpshooter Joe Harris to use in potential trades.

As SNY reported, the Nets and opposing teams had conversations about trades involving Harris prior to the deadline. With the way things played out in the postseason, maybe Brooklyn considers Harris off limits for 2022-23. But teams will certainly have interest in him this summer if the Nets make him available.

Brooklyn also can exceed the cap to re-sign unrestricted free agent Bruce Brown and can match any offer made to restricted free agent Nick Claxton. There were questions about both players’ futures with the Nets at different points in the 2021-22 season. But Brown and Claxton played well in the season and against the Celtics.

So you can expect Brooklyn to be aggressive in trying to keep both players.

Signing Claxton and Brown would be costly for the Nets; the club is paying the luxury tax for this season. But that’s the price of doing business if you want to compete for a title.



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