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"The Nets Are Pushing Regular Season to Its Limits," as stars haven't played together. A (cynical) NBA trend?

The Nets Are Pushing Regular Season to Its Limits, Rohan Nadkarni wrote 4/9/21 for Sports Illustrated, noting that Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving "have appeared in only 186 minutes together across seven games in 2021," likely the most extreme example of a title-contending team to wait to gel.

He writes:
All of this is setup for one of the most intriguing title chases in recent history. Can a team, during a pandemic-affected season with nearly no practice time, finally roll out its stars for a sustained period of time only weeks before the playoffs and still be taken seriously as a contender? Right now it’s hard to argue against the Nets. They’re the No. 1 seed in the East entering Friday despite all the injuries. Their offensive rating is the best in the NBA and would be the best in league history if it stays at 117.5. And Durant, their best player, is back on the floor after appearing in only 19 games before Wednesday’s win against the Pelicans.
The reasons for the absences include injuries, pandemic protocols, and personal time off. Meanwhile, the Nets have experimented with various line-ups, allowing role players to shine.

Time for some cynicism?

Nadkarni wonders:
Still, there’s something almost cynical about the Nets as much as it is thrilling... A supersquad created by guys who all left their previous teams in varying uncomfortable manners and are so talented that they can seemingly run through their conference without even having to, you know, play together? Again the NBA has always been star-driven. And this isn’t a conversation about agency. But as the league and its power brokers lean more and more into the championship-or-bust mentality, I think it’s fair to wonder whether the logical endpoint is a bunch of superteams who almost punt entirely on the regular season. 
Surely the Nets, if they win it all and stay healthy, will keep their superteam for the next full season. And maybe, if they are successful, other teams will make similar manuevers.

But I'll stand by my observation: we're not in Dodgerland anymore, most notably because the players have so little longevity with the team. 

But also consider that the Dodgers--like other professional athletes of their time--were more middle-class than money-to-burn rich, and were more likely to take the trolley than to drive to their (underground, for the Nets) parking space. And yes, I know some players walk to the arena.

An alternative: give the GM credit

Yesterday, in Newsday, Greg Logan wrote Nets general manager Sean Marks deserves recognition, not scorn, for assembling what may an all-time great roster

Some decry the lack of "home-grown" talent, but in fact, the groundwork laid by Marks five years ago and the shrewd moves he has made since then suggest he should be the runaway winner for NBA executive of the year.

...[Joe Harris]  credits the family-style culture established by Marks along with the positive vibe and enthusiasm the Nets always displayed under former coach Kenny Atkinson for attracting such high-powered talent.

OK, but it's a different kind of "family" to jettison a successful coach so cold-bloodedly. But there was a reason:

Marks’ decision to hire longtime close friend Nash looks risky from the outside, but Marks previously indicated his conviction was absolute because he had seen firsthand what Nash did as a player to help run the Suns when they were teammates.

Obviously, Durant and Irving signed off on that move, just as they did on the Harden trade, according to multiple sources familiar with the collaborative philosophy embraced by Marks, who engages with his players almost daily, especially the stars driving this process. Harden recently said he consulted with Durant, in particular, before he was traded to the Nets.
Meanwhile, after a blowout loss to the shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers, albeit without Harden and with Irving getting ejected halfway through, The Nets (still) have a center problem, the Daily News's Kristian Winfield wrote last night:
Andre Drummond’s dominant night against the Nets was nothing new. We saw this when he dominated the Nets in back-to-back games while he was a member of the Cavaliers earlier this season. I even called this very outcome when he chose to sign with the Lakers over the Nets while a free agent on the buyout market.
...It won’t just be the Lakers that pose this particular issue, either: Brooklyn’s next two games are against Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves) and Joel Embiid (76ers), and they’ll have to go through Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez (Bucks), Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler (Heat), Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner (Pacers) or All-Star big man Nikola Vucevic (Bulls) if they hope to reach the NBA Finals this season.
The Lakers have looked underwhelming with LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the bench, but it's not out of the question that this team, too, could finally gel when the playoffs come.

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