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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park infographics: what's built/what's coming/what's missing, who's responsible, + project FAQ/timeline (pinned post)

Three years after "Clean Sweep," Nets set to lose stars Durant and Irving, must rebuild from "organizational catastrophe." So much for owner Tsai's profit plan?

Just three years after snagging superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in a player-driven surprise (which, um, also brought the duo's over-the-hill chum, DeAndre Jordan), the Brooklyn Nets are in turmoil, with Durant requesting a trade and Irving, who couldn't reach agreement on a contract extension, expected to be traded, too.

If original Atlantic Yards developer (and arena builder/Nets owner) Bruce Ratner once said there were "black swans" in everything, and "we will figure it out," his record was mixed. 

He was able to rescue the arena design after downsizing from Frank Gehry's original template, by hiring SHoP to wrap the EllerbeBecket design in pre-rusted metal, but he wasn't able to launch a successful, money-saving modular construction business--and had to sell the project at a loss, after selling the Nets/arena company to Mikhail Prokhorov, who turned out to be the big winner so far.

Alibaba billionaire Joe Tsai, bought the team/arena company from Prokhorov, and his General Manager Sean Marks unsurprisingly adjusted team "culture" to accommodate the superstars, especially the mercurial Irving, giving up assets to acquire a third superstar James Harden--but then came the pandemic, New York City's workplace vaccine mandate, and--most importantly--Irving's refusal to be vaccinated. 

All black swans.

Thought the Nets--reportedly at the insistence of Durant, who was playing too many minutes--agreed to let Irving play road games, Harden was already disgruntled, and was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for a packaged centered on Ben Simmons, another injured, nonplaying star.

After an unceremonious loss to the Boston Celtic in the first round of the playoffs, and an unwise/arrogant Irving statement about helping manage the team, the Nets played hardball, unwilling to extend Irving's contract without--reportedly--some clauses regarding attendance. 

So Irving instead signed a one-year extension and, apparently, that triggered his buddy durant--and the current, unresolved debacle, which throws a wrench in Tsai's ambitious plan to generate $1 billion from the financially struggling Nets (thanks to luxury taxes triggered by high salaries) and money-losing arena.

Requesting a trade

GONE: Kevin Durant has asked Nets to trade him, NetsDaily reported 6/30/22, in a post that has so far garnered nearly 4,600 comments.

Note that Durant is not necessarily gone--NetsDaily this morning cited ESPN's Adrian (Woj) Wojnarowski as saying no deals were close yet, which means the team might have both in uniform as of the September training camp.

That means that the photos I took two days ago, which show Irving and Durant front and center in arena advertising, are not necessarily deceptive, thus providing plausible justification for high ticket prices.

From the earlier NetsDaily article :
Three years to the day — almost to the hour — the “Clean Sweep” has been undone.
...The loss of arguably the game’s greatest player in his prime represents the single greatest failure by ownership and management in NBA history. After years of being a joke on the court and at the box office, the Nets acquired Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan on June 30, 2019 — which Woj dubbed “the Clean Sweep” — in hopes of creating a basketball dynasty. Instead, the era never got beyond the second round of the playoffs and this year the Nets wound up being swept by Boston in the first round of the playoffs.

As Zach Lowe recounted, “an organizational catastrophe." 
A culture based on player empowerment failed miserably with the franchise continually caving in to the superstars demands without a commensurate return. 
Sharing the blame

Wrote "Net Income" (aka Bob Windrem):
Much of the blame for the debacle will fall on Irving who in a variety of ways put his own personal beliefs above the team, most famously by refusing to get the COVID vaccine and missing all but 29 games last season. Some in the organization were also reportedly unhappy with Irving’s effort in the first round which one insider called “horrendous.”

However, he is not alone. Ownership and management failed to see the potential risks in switching from player empowerment to a more hardline approach or if they did see them, did not appreciate had badly things could go. Durant too. He protected Irving, his friend.
How the Brooklyn Nets went from a super-team to a Kevin Durant trade request, wrote The Athletic's Alex Schiffer 6/30/22, summing up, "It started as a clean sweep and ended up a disaster":
Never before has a player of Durant’s caliber — a league MVP and two-time Finals MVP — become available with so many years of control remaining on his contract. And perhaps never before has a so-called superteam fractured in such a dramatic and unpredictable fashion. The Nets were once looked at as a potential dynasty. Now they’re one of the greatest hypotheticals in NBA history.
Writes Schiffer:
Ultimately, the lack of a homegrown star may have been the Nets’ biggest shortcoming. The Nets built a culture that gave them enough success to attract Irving and Durant, two stars to whom they showed great loyalty, but without a star they’d drafted and developed, the whole thing eventually unraveled. 
Kevin Durant, the NBA’s modern, nomadic superstar, again has the league in his hands, wrote The Athletic's David Aldridge and Marcus Thompson II 7/1/11, citing Durant's previous departures from Oklahoma City to Golden State, and then from the latter to Brooklyn. Both predecessors were, compared to Brooklyn, far happier times.

As they summarize:
Brooklyn, without hesitation, gave Durant a four-year, $198 million extension last summer. Even as the implications of Irving’s refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine, which would leave him unable to play home games for most of the season, became clear, Brooklyn backtracked on its initial stance that it would not have Irving around the team as long as he remained unvaccinated. The Nets were all in, across the board, to try to keep Durant happy.
Durant's pursue of liberation--unusual, when on a four-year contract--comes with a price, they point out: "Durant’s going to, again, pay in reputation."

Channeling the owner's narrative, The Athletic's Joe Vardon wrote 7/1/11 Before Kevin Durant trade request, Nets owner Joseph Tsai already had reason to be furious:
In this particular set of circumstances surrounding Durant, Irving and the Nets, things got more complicated than planned. Brooklyn spent three full seasons paying the luxury tax, failed to get out of the second round of the playoffs, fired a popular coach, traded away a lot of assets to bring in another star in James Harden and then was forced to trade him because he had lost all faith in Irving’s commitment to winning. That led to acquiring a player on a max contract who was physically and mentally unable to play at all last season (Ben Simmons), all while neither Irving nor Durant came close to playing in half of the Nets’ games. Add in Irving’s refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine and the team cohesiveness that affected last season, and it’s no wonder Tsai has reached his limit.
Vardon notes that the Nets acquiesced to Durant's request that Irving be allowed to play road games

Durant's legacy

It’s Kevin Durant’s other trade that will haunt his career forever, New York Post sports columnist Ian O'Connor wrote 7/1/22, recounting Durant's departure from Golden State, where he wasn't top dog, for Brooklyn:
By exchanging Stephen Curry for Irving, Durant cost himself at least one championship ring, if not two or more down the road, and betrayed the vision he had six years ago in the Hamptons, where he hosted a Golden State delegation that had just eliminated his Thunder team in the playoffs. 
...All that matters now is this: Durant had a chance to spend the rest of his prime with Curry, the greatest shooter ever, a pro’s pro and the rare franchise player who was genuinely willing to assume the role of Robin to Durant’s Batman after playing Batman himself. 
New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica, 7/2/22, wrote Thin-skinned Kevin Durant once again looking for happiness at next stop, comparing him unfavorably to legend LeBron James, who chose new teams but manhaged to win:
These players say it’s all about winning and really do act like losers. Durant is just the latest, certainly not the last. He must think he can blame somebody else for his decision to go to Brooklyn and bring Irving along with him. Not just bring Irving with him. But trust him to be a good teammate.

Harden’s on his fourth team. Irving seems to be looking for a fourth. Durant is on his way out of Brooklyn, looking for his fourth team now. And, of course, true happiness. Big star, Kevin Durant. Big baby. Not made for the big city in the end.

Who else is responsible

Some are blaming newbie coach Steve Nash, a former NBA MVP, who presumably might depart if the stars leave. Woj 9/4/20 wrote Why the Nets wanted Steve Nash to coach Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving:
Most of all, Marks hired Nash because he believed he could construct genuine relationships away from the gym, construct a culture. Everyone talks about it, but few do it. The Nets built one culture with Marks and Kenny Atkinson, the young draft picks and spare-part veterans who elevated the franchise to profound respectability around the NBA. This is a different owner and different stars and a different burden. There is extraordinary talent on these Nets, and extraordinary challenges to harness it. Nash has a reputation as one of the gatherers of people. That will be tested here.
Nets GM Has His Marks All Over End Of Superstar Era, wrote Steve Lichtenstein 6/30/22:
Well, I hope Joseph Tsai and Sean Marks are proud of themselves for sticking to their guns when it came to negotiating a contract extension with superstar guard Kyrie Irving, for what they’re about to do to this franchise is unforgivable.

...I warned that alienating Irving wouldn’t sit well with his friend Kevin Durant, one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, though I was half-wrong when I predicted he wouldn’t be one to immediately walk into Marks’ office and demand a trade.
Responding to a commenter who said not to blame Marks, Lichtenstein responded:
We agree Kyrie sabotaged the team by not getting vaccinated, but let’s not kid ourselves about this past season’s team. The supporting cast was flawed when the 2 stars bombed in the playoffs. Nash was overmatched. And as for that likable 2018-19 team, no way that group would have ever made a deep run. No regrets signing the league’s best player—it should have worked.
As to Nash being picked by Durant, Lichtenstein reponded:
I’m sorry but I’ve heard differently—Marks & Nash have been tight for years & Marks knew the choice would get KD’s approval. However, others more qualified would have been acceptable to KD as well. Harden was brought in as Kyrie insurance—the trade heated up when Irving took those personal days. Turned out to be a lousy policy.
It gets worse. Simmons Trade Biting Nets In Offseason Too, Lichtenstein wrote 7/3/22, noting that Simmons, the centerpiece of the Harden trade, hampers them:
For as Nets General Manager Sean Marks receives offers for his two remaining disgruntled superstars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, many of his most desired returns are off limits thanks to the collective bargaining agreement rule that prohibits a team from trading for more than one player who signed a designated max extension off their rookie contracts.
The Nets rebuild?

Remember, you're just rooting for the clothes.

As the Post reported, the Nets already have lost starters Andre Drummond and Bruce Brown, both free agents. They'll be replaced, with new fanfare. 

And the haul the Nets should get for Durant--a star or two, plus role players and draft picks, presumably--will get spun as new strength. From NetsDaily today, regarding the fans:
Some of the faithful are simply bereft, in shock, even mourning. Other are resigned. From what we can tell most are in a wait-and-see mode. ‘Tell us what you got, Joe and Sean, and we’ll tell you how loyal we will be, how many tickets we will buy, how loud we will scream and rant and take to Twitter?’

Training camp begins in a little less than three months, the season a little more. Hopefully, next week and the week after will be better than this one. We dread to think that it could be worse. One thing we know, change is coming.

One comment in response:

Tsai owes season ticket holders an explanation.

He sold those who renewed on a championship caliber roster to justify an exorbitant price increase. That clearly won’t be the case. Hopefully he doesn’t leave the fans high and dry, if he does there may not be many fans remaining.

 

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