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After former title favorites Nets lose in first-round sweep, tabs proclaim "Broke-lyn" and "Netmare"

Though the Brooklyn Nets were title favorites for 2021-22, their season came to an ignominious end last night at home, after they were swept 4-0 by the Boston Celtics in a first-round playoff series. 

Though the games were close, the formidable Celtics--now a title favorite--found ways to take advantage of Nets' deficits.

The year was full of drama, starting with the unvaccinated Kyrie Irving, banned from playing at home, required by the team to sit out road games--until they reversed that policy, to take the load off fellow star Kevin Durant. Oh, and the loss of injured sharpshooter Joe Harris. 

Then third star James Harden, disgruntled by Irving's absences, wangled a trade to Philadelphia, but the biggest prize in the trade, Ben Simmons, has an injured back--and his slow rehab, once said to culminate with him playing last night, didn't work out that way. (Unlike with Game 3, where Simmons showed up courtside in attention-getting duds, he didn't appear at Barclays.)

Add carping about GM Sean Marks' assembly of this edition of the Nets (you're just rooting for the clothes, remember), which lacked wing stoppers for tall, athletic teams like the Celtics. And carping about first-time Coach Steve Nash, clearly out-coached by the Celtics' Ime Udoka, a former Nets' assistant.

It was the downside of player empowerment, with Irving, not-so-humbly, last night ignoring the coach to say, "When I say I'm here with Kev, I think that really entails us managing this franchise together alongside [owner] Joe [Tsai] and Sean."

Another bad prognosticator: Mayor Eric Adams, who reversed the city's debatable policy on unvaccinated home players to let Irving and certain Yankees/Mets play, ostensibly to ensure playoff games and visitor spending, and surely with an NBA championship parade in mind.
A lying franchise

And fans who gave the Nets a bye for attracting superstars had ample reason to grouse. As NetsDaily's Brian Fleurantin wrote yesterday in his game preview,
By and large, the Nets don’t tell us anything or just lie when they do say something. They keep things close to the vest, and that’s their right. However, when things go haywire, the cloak and dagger routine winds up pissing people off. And with that, we have to talk about Ben Simmons.

Wrote Steve Lichtenstein in his newlsetter, Disappointing Nets Season Defined By Who Wasn’t Playing:

After scrimmaging on Saturday (I’ll never understand the logic of allowing him to scrimmage but not to play 10-15 minutes in a real game), Simmons told the Nets he felt “sore,”, which, according to Brooklyn’s untrustworthy PR staff, was the reason he and his shiny wardrobe were absent from the Nets’ bench for Game 4.

Regarding lies, sports reporters remember when the Nets and Nash said there were no plans to trade Harden, until there were.

Hmm... could it be that other answers from team brass--say, about sidewalk parking or the Dean Street logo--are not fully candid. 

Next year?

Podcast hosts The Glue Guys tweeted:
“I hope @joetsai1999 realizes how damaging this season has been for the franchise and how Nets fans feel about the team. The ridiculous PR strategy, being pawns for Daryl Morey and James Harden, the anti-vax superstar, the Ben’s back odyssey - it’s all an utter disaster”
Well, it's a huge disappointment.

Those looking on the bright side, though, say that could change back next year, if the Nets get a healthy Simmons and Harris, plus a few more complementary pieces--and Irving and Durant return to form.

So there will be new players wearing the clothes that fans will be rooting for.

"The greatest team that never was"

It isn't what went wrong for the Nets, or what happened to them. It's about the decisions that allowed these team- and culture-shattering problems to exist in the first place.

Whether it be Harden quitting on the team and asking to be traded midseason, Irving being unable to play in games in New York City and Toronto due to his vaccination status, or even Simmons' decision to force a trade from Philadelphia after last season and drawn out a "ramp-up" process to play again, which never came to fruition.

The Nets' management and ownership have tried to support their stars throughout the season. Generally, superstar players appreciate that kind of respect. But outside of Durant, the Nets' superstars did not make good on the deference they were shown, and that's a problem for a team built as a star system.